South Africa

Learning lessons about life in Soweto

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© UNICEF South Africa/2004/Thomas
Nonhlanhla Vilakazi, aged 11, in front of an HIV/AIDS awareness mural at her school in Soweto, South Africa.
SOWETO, South Africa, 1 June 2004—When it comes to learning, there is no stopping 11-year-old Nonhlanhla Vilakazi.

She’s in Grade 5 at Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School in Soweto, a former township on the edge of Johannesburg, South Africa and she’s loving every minute of it.

“My school is a very good school. We learn about everything, many things,” Nonhlanhla says.

“I like my school because it is clean and we learn about everything we need to. If you want to know more about science, you can go to the science teacher and ask and she will tell you.

“My favourite teacher is Mr Magwena. He is the one who makes you laugh first and then he becomes serious. In our class we like jokes. That is why we like Mr Magwena because he is a very joking man.

“I’m not afraid to speak up when I know what the answer is,” she says.

Nonhlanhla lives in a small but comfortable brick house in Protea Glen, about 20 minutes  drive from the school, with her father, her step-mother, her uncle and her dog. On her bedroom wall are some posters of South African TV stars as well as Halle Berry.

“My dog’s name is Husky and she is a very good dog. I play with her with a tennis ball. I throw it up and she jumps for it,” she says.

Nonhlanhla’s father is a manager and drives her to school every morning. She takes a minibus taxi home.

“I enjoy sports, especially drum majorettes and netball. I enjoy netball because everyone wants me to be the shooter. I am one of the smallest in the team because they are all older than me,” she says.

Nonhlanhla is also a keen member of the school’s Soul Buddyz Club, which takes its name from a popular South African TV and radio show aimed at young people aged between 10 and 14.

“My favourite character in Soul Buddyz is Zandi. She’s 15 and she likes playing, writing letters and discussing things with her friends,” says Nonhlanhla.

Soul Buddyz Club members meet once a week at the school to explore some of the issues that come up in the show.

“We learn about HIV/AIDS, child abuse, discrimination. Like when someone is HIV-positive, you shouldn’t make jokes about it,” she says. “AIDS is a disease that you cannot cure. When you have it you cannot take pills and say ‘AIDS go out of me.’

“They taught us how to avoid AIDS. We should learn about these things because maybe there is a boy or girl at school who is HIV-positive. You can share food, cups, spoons, toilets and baths with that person, and drinks.
 
“If you know the real facts about HIV/AIDS, you don’t have to reject them because a friend with AIDS is still a friend.

“Today at school we did a drama about bullying, because there are kids who are bullied and we want to start living like human beings, not animals,” she says.

The drama, performed at the morning assembly, was greeted with howls of laughter from her classmates and teachers alike.

“My hopes and dreams are to become a tour guide, then I would like to see the street kids being taken care of. I would just build a home where they could go and make them feel at home. And If I have old clothes I will take them there.

“I want to be a tour guide because I think tour guides have a lot of money and I want to donate that money to the street kids.

“It is important for everyone to get an education because education will give you success. Without education you can’t be a tour guide, you can’t do anything. You will be a person who just stays at home and looks after the kids. But you have to do something, not just stay home.
 
“My message to children in other countries is that they must stop bullying and they must not carry guns or do wrong things because wrong things will make them go to jail and we don’t want to see that.

“I would like the future to be good for the new generation,” she says.


 

 

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Nonhlanhla Vilakazi, aged 11, explains in her own words why education is important to her.

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