Real life stories:

People think, privately, that people don’t finish school because people think that parents don’t have any money.  I think it’s not that, it’s not that, it’s because of meeting friends that are bad influences and doing bad stuff.  People blame the parents.  I didn’t finish matric.  It’s not because of the parents.  The other guys are bad and gansterism.  I was a drop out.  Teachers don’t give a crap about you.  Teachers don’t care.

I really wanted to do fitting and turning at technical school.  It kept me interested.  Nobody said you have to get your matric.  You see the guys who pass matric on the corners without work.  What’s matric going to get you?  These are the choices you are faced with at school, no opportunities, so why bother? 

There is no money, no funds for college, to study further, no money for accommodation or travel and parents struggle too.  You don’t bother to go any further than that.  That’s my experience.  There is no point in applying for bursaries because there is no chance of getting one.  You need good grades for bursaries, and if your parents are not well connected then you won’t get a good deal at some schools.  Some of my friends have got good jobs and have no matric, so what’s the point?  I finished school after grade 10 (standard 8)

I used to work at the trauma department of Vincent Palotti hospital, with no matric, cleaning the surgical instruments. 

For young children on the Cape flats, it’s the choices you make, the people you know.  It’s tough out there.  I’m encouraging my sisters to do their best.  At the end of the day it depends on us.

There are schools closing in Cape Town because of drugs.  No windows, no burglar bars.  Gangs hang out at school after classes, stuff like that. It’s the pupils that run the gangs.  On Spion Road, every week they catch someone selling drugs.  There is a lot of peer pressure by others thinking that they are better off.  They have nice clothes, cars, money, so they hang out with them. That’s why I moved out of Cape Town.”


I went to a private high school.  I was there for 5 years before I was expelled.  My parents were both teachers and really wanted me to have the good education.  We didn't have much.  They saved and sacrificed everything so that I could go to a good school and have the best education.  I remember an incident at school when all the guys were standing around and boasting how successful their fathers were.  The big houses and big boats etc and the one guy asked me.. What does your father have? All I could say was that my mother and father have each other and they have a wonderful happy marriage.  I could see one of the guys with tears in his eyes as his parents were going through a divorce..

I also remember one of the guys in school committing suicide.  His father's business had failed and they still continued to live the high life for a couple of years after that, keeping up the appearances of being successful, when in fact they were completely bankrupt. He shot himself with a shotgun."


"I grew up in the Eastern Cape , Matatiene, in the rural areas and I studied there until grade 8. I was raised by both parents. Only my father was working.  We were 7, brothers and sisters."

"I decided to leave school because I was not concentrating, I was not doing well at that school.  Too much stress on me.. what was going on with my family.. Problems like that effect children, grow up confused.  School was far away, maybe 4 or 5 Km, far to walk everyday. In the winter we must walk, ice cold, snowing, very cold"

"How is it in Germany?  I want to see it.  Just pictures"


“I went to school until standard 9.  I wanted to be a pilot when I was young.  My parents didn’t have enough money. Living in the rural areas.  It was not easy to study after school.  Our teachers – we had good teachers, for life, for everything.  I left school because it was too far from home (20km each way) and I started looking for work after that.  I have a child.  School is very expensive for my daughter.  Not very good education for my daughter.  The government must pay more for schools and transport.”


"I come from the Eastern Cape and I lived with my mother and father.  They are not working.  School fees were R20 for grade 1 to 7. It was difficult because my parents were not working at that time. My mother needed to sell pigs and wood so that we could get school uniforms. Sometimes we could get old uniforms from others. My school was about 40Km from home.  No bus & we had to walk everyday for 3 years. It was difficult & I was a student supposed to get to morning classes.  My matric result were not good, it was too far. Since 2008 I have been working as a parking warden.  I cannot work in other places because of my poor English & poor education.

They made a mistake with my ID document and my date of birth is wrong. I can't get other work because my matric certificate and ID don't match.  I had to pay home affairs R450 to correct my ID. They didn't change it, and they don't know where it is. They say I have it. It's difficult to get a job if you older than 30 (as per my ID).."


I come from the Eastern Cape, in the Ciskei.  One of those places that you won’t find on the map, between Cookhouse and Adelaide, near Fort Beaufort.  I grew up with my grandmother, cousins and sisters.  We are almost twenty, all of us, and she was getting the pay grant and supporting all of us with that small pay.  She couldn’t take all of us to school, in fact, I am the only one who succeeded to pass grade 12 (std. 10).  I managed that because I was clever and worked hard and with the help of the church and my teachers.  Because there was no money at home I couldn’t go to university or college…. many issues and I had to find a way.  I left home and went to Port Elizabeth and lived with my pastor at his home because he was a business man and I helped there.  The next year he passed away so I couldn’t continue staying there because he was gone so I had to make some other means.  I went to Knysna with the help of a friend, to work at the Rescue, a German guy who was the owner there.  I started to be a runner there, to read the menu and to help the other guys working there.

My cousins and nephews stopped school after grade 7 and 8 because there was no money for paying school fees and they gave up hope and stayed home. Almost twenty of us, very difficult, also to pay for school uniforms.  It was one of those poorest, poorest places.  There never was there people from government who show up there and listen to people... only see it on TV.

The best place to go to, to work, is PE, or like me you can go to Cape Town.  It’s the best place for resources.  I wanted to be a radio broadcaster and study engineering.  I love to debate, about issues.  I’ve seen so many things while I was growing up and of how people suffer.

Last year I tried, I started at Damelin College, but had to stop because of problems.  I had to be here and there because everything back home depends on me.  We had four assignments to complete and I couldn’t finish.  I could only do two because of this kind of job, working nights shifts and the other thing, when I was doing that, I wanted to better myself. 

My sister was sitting back home, she didn’t pass grade 12, so I bought her a container from Vodacom to provide a public phone booth.  I go to Absa bank to get a loan to buy the phone container for R13,000.  Plus interest I must repay R26,000 and I am still paying it and will finish repaying this three year loan in June this year.  The rent to place the container was too much (R400 p.m.).  The only people using the phone was seasonal workers in the season.  I used to buy airtime for R450 and the profit was R200.  I wanted it for my sister to run it and then I could finish my studies at Damelin college.  She could not close the booth late at night, because on weekends, because she is a lady, and I had to go back there to work.  Now it’s not working anymore but I am still paying.  That’s my story, I had to work because there was no money, I am the breadwinner.

I want to be a freelance journalist because there are stories in Villiersdorp that no one knows about.  I love everything about radio and telling stories and debate issues that are affecting us and what you have to go through as a black person.  Going through disadvantages, homes and poor places like mine.  I also write songs.  God gave me a talent and I am also a musician. 

I am always coming to the wrong place, like here, there are no resources to do things.  I also need to improve my English.  It’s been hectic, feeling like I have been in jail, it’s been hell, hell, everything not going right for me.  I believe in God and I am a very positive person. Never in my life did I expect the life that I am living, living in a one room shack, with nothing there, only the stove.  I am positive that things will get better.  If I can get good resources, I’ll continue my studies and I can go far."


Translated from Afrikaans...

"School was good, although I didn't complete my schooling.  I left school in 2010 and started working.  I finished school after grade 10 and if it was possible I'd like to do it (matriculate), but it's not easy because I work now.  I didn't want to go further at the time, and I learnt very little at school.  I was tired of studying when I left.  It wasn't worth the effort.  I would like to study Music…"


"My mother was a nurse and my father was a junior accountant.  I went to a model C school and then to the University of Cape Town (UCT). My 3 majors were Microbiology, Biochemistry & Biotechnology. I then did my masters in pharmacology.  The lab work was very boring and I decided to change my career as I wanted to be involved with people.  I applied for a masters in public health (epidemiology).  My interest has always been HIV & AIDS research, maternal & child health.

My parents believed a lot in education & would do anything for us to study more. Education was part of the everyday talk. I think that is really the foundation. As a child I wanted to grow up to be a doctor.

There is a lot of government funding & bursaries for tertiary education, you just have to pass well. It's important to know what is available.  Gov. funding comes in too late. I had to use loans, which were converted to bursaries when I passed. My postgraduate studies were funded by scholarships."

“I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology, an honours degree in medicine, Pharmacology, and a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I am currently enrolled as a PhD student at Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health sciences, Division of Global Health (IHCAR). Supervised by Drs. Anna Thorson and Anna Mia Ekström.

I am also based at the Medical Research Council of South Africa, where I am currently working on a community randomized trial to assess the acceptability and uptake of home-based Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) of HIV in a rural area in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, as part of my PhD studies. My research areas of interest are maternal and child health, and community interventions to address HIV and AIDS.” 


"My biggest dream in school, I liked school very much but I failed the end exam, was to become a hairstylist, which I do part-time on my own, but it's not professional.   I do it in my spare time.  There wasn't any money at home to study further.  When i finished school I started working.  Yes, I started working in Cape Town as a domestic worker for Muslim people.  My mother got sick and wasn't feeling well and told me to come back, to be nearby.

School..The subject I most liked was writing. We must do wood work and writing and then the practical.  I missed the writing, what do you call it..  the theory.  I missed one subject and then I failed.  The teachers were very good and supported me.  I would like to study from home and I would like to become a beautician. It's now impossible because now i manage the shop, on a full time basis.  I must do it actually, in my spare time."


"Ek is al die pad van Villiersdorp, het my skoolloopbaan hier voltooi, by Villiersdorp Sekondère Skool gematrikuleer. Daarna het ek vir 3 jaar by Boland kollegeWorcester gaan studeer vir vroeë kind ontwikkeling (ealy childhood development). Ek wou al my lewe lankskool gee, en is tans besig met verdere kursusse. Om terug te keer na my skoolloopbaan, ek het skool baie geniet.  Die onderwysers, kinders en almal.  Dit was lekker. Dit was bekostigbaarvir my ouers, get het goeie opleiding ontvang, ek het elke dag uitgesien daarna. Ek is nog nie klaar studeernie, ek beplan volgende jaar onderwys to gaan doen. Ek het a baie groot liefde vir kinders en geniet dit om ander te leer en te help.

Skole: Ek dink in die daaglikse lewe het dwelms a groot impak op kinders se loopbane, want hier is tans baie. Kinders wat hulle vergooi in dwelms en alkohol en nie hul skoolloopbaan voltooi nie"


“I´m working as a researcher for the Medical Research Council in South Africa and completing a MA postgraduate degree in Public Policy. I am also in the process of readying myself to commence Phd studies at Karolinska Institutet in 2008. My research interests mainly lie in sexual and reproductive health, but I am also quite keen on child and family psychosocial dynamics. My hobbies are reading, reading and reading! Current work involves a research project that entails the use of an innovative probability sampling methodology called Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) designed to investigate hard-to-reach populations. The aim of the study is to investigate the sexual risk behaviors of young females aged 16-24 at high risk of HIV/AIDS in the Western Cape, SA. The study employs both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and is in the data collection/field work phase. It’s proving to be a complex study with interesting dynamics and many hair-plucking moments!” 


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There are lots of more stories to come…..