Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Parishioner at Archdiocese of Johannesburg Reflects on 'Fees Must Fall' Student Protest in South Africa

The government of South Africa recently proposed a 6% increase in tuition at the nation’s universities. In response students took to the streets to protest. Ms. Palesa Ncube, a parishioner at the Archdiocese of Johannesburg (Parish of Diepkloof in Soweto) reflects on her own experience as a university student, navigating the costs for pursuing higher education in South Africa today. Ms. Ncube works for KPMG - South Africa.

By Ms. Palesa Ncube

In the past few weeks news headlines and social media have been dominated by university students calling for tuition to be lowered. I fully understand their position as I have in some form or another dealt with this situation throughout my school life.

I always begin my story with this line: I believe I have been blessed to be in the right place at the right time. Born to a teenage mother, I was raised by her parents who were great believers in education. I started school when I was 5 years old and immediately knew I was different. Learning to read was more important to me than running faster than the other kids.

At my first school in Soweto and as a top student, I was part of a group selected to attend Saturday School classes at one of South Africa’s most prestigious schools: Rodean School SA. The program was sponsored by GCP (Growth of Children’s Potential). This was the beginning of a new lease on life for me. I got a taste of the ‘other side’, of opulence and privilege and I wanted in. I began reading as if pages in books gave off extra oxygen and I basically lived in the heady clouds of possibility.

My grandfather greatly influenced my ‘head in the clouds’ ideology. I remember saying I wanted to be like Tito Mboweni (Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa) and sign the nation’s money. My grandfather's response: Why not?

When it came time to enroll in high school I finally began to grasp that my realization of ‘why not’ was not going to be easy. GCP had a scholarship program for underprivileged children to attend some of the top schools in Johannesburg. I wrote and aced the entrance exam for St Stithian. All that was left was the financial approval. My grandparents naturally filled out the forms as they were my legal guardians. I vividly remember being denied a scholarship as my grandparents collectively made more than what was deemed to be ‘underprivileged’.

I however got accepted into another exceptional high school with an excellent academic record, that had been established to assist underprivileged children who excelled in Math and Science.

Fast forward to a couple of years later. By now I aspired to attend university and obtain a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Comm) specializing in Finance and eventually work at a Merchant Bank brokering multimillion rand deals (the rand is the currency of South Africa) like the traders I met at a career fair. I was fully aware that my grandparents could not afford this and my mother had just recently started a career. It wasn’t because my family hadn’t planned properly, it was that there was no discretionary income to allow for a marginal propensity to save (as they had taught us in Economics). All their income was disposable, barely covering our basic needs.

Having learned from my high school saga, I completed the financial assistance forms using my mother’s details. I received a loan from NFSAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme). But this was not an easy win. Every year we had to stand in day long queues to have our applications reviewed, until one year when I had a bitter sweet victory - I received a financial assistance loan of 100%, while my good friend, suddenly became less underprivileged and received a loan of only 25%. It was harrowing to watch him plea with family members for help and stand surety for a bank loan. Because although his mother earned too much for him to receive government funding, she earned too little to give the bank comfort that she could adequately service the debt. What a tricky, vicious cycle!!

Why do we subject ourselves to this trauma? Very simple, to work in our dream careers. Corporate South Africa will not consider your application for a post if you do not have the necessary qualifications. That is why the plea of students that FEES MUST FALL resonates so loudly with me. I completely understand how detrimental it is for one's soul to realize that higher university fees could abruptly end dreams. In this lifetime I pray I utilize my ‘luck’ and privilege to ensure that my daughter and all other South Africa children never experience this feeling: that exorbitant and exclusionary university fees do make dreams unattainable.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Oblate Radio Liseli spreads the light of Christ to surrounding communities

In June 2015 Oblate Radio Liseli in Mongu, Zambia marked 10 years in its mission of Spreading the Light of Christ in the Western Province of Zambia, Mongu Diocese.

One way the radio station is carrying out its mission is through educational programs facilitated by young people from the surrounding communities and schools. Among the programs are: Press Club, Learning at School and Fun Club.

Radio Liseli reaches thousands of listeners in Mongu, the capital city of the Western Province. The goal is to reach even more listeners in distant villages.
St John’s pupils in the Studio at Oblate Radio Liseli