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#FeesMustFall, #HopeWillRise

I remember the day when I first heard of the #FeesMustFall movement in October 2015. I was on a business trip in Kenya, and got updates on what was happening back home in South Africa: Students demonstrating and marching, with the goal of stopping an increase in University fees, and lobbying the Government for free Education.

And my response, like many in the middle- and upper-class of Society, was “This is Ridiculous”. There is so much striking and wage negotiations and protests in South Africa, and now this as well? Unacceptable. Don’t they know that nothing in life is Free?

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a (much wiser) spouse who was able to help me understand the situation much better. As a Lecturer at Wits herself, she went against the grain of many people and stood in solidarity with the students. Over the course of that week, I began to understand a bit more about the plight and (many times more) dire situation of this generation of students. It was a reminder of situations which I knew all too well.

Enter: Letanya Rosenburg. “Lala”, for anyone who has crossed paths with her. You would be forgiven for thinking that she was overdosing on Extra-Caffeinated coffee to maintain her buzz and energy levels.

We met Letanya through a kids-program at our local church, called “AWANA” ( . She stole our hearts with her smile and joyful demeanour, and would very quickly become everyone’s Little Sister. Lala showed promise in her walk of faith, in sport and in her schooling. But then it seemed like tragedies became the norm for her. Her (single-parent) mother passed away when Lala was 16. Her situation was borderline hopeless, giving Lala very little to get by for food and schooling. Fortunately, she had a close friend whose family pseudo-adopted her during the really tough days. With no prospect for bursaries for her studies, a few sponsors (including her Grandfather, a pensioner with not much to his name) joined together to give her a chance to pursue her dreams of becoming a Biokineticist.

Four years later, the dream has been realized: Letanya has completed her studies at the University of Johannesburg (2015) and her Post-grad at the University of Pretoria (2016). And yesterday, on a warm sunny day in Pretoria, we watched her receive her Honours degree (BA Biokinetics) on stage. We’ve stood as proud instruments of God through these years, seeing her work tirelessly to grab one of a few available opportunities. Opportunities that are far too few.

Letanya is one of hundreds of thousands of the youth of South-Africa who have tremendous potential, who are willing and able, but who have almost no opportunity to make something of themselves. Now let me clarify something: I don’t discount those who are working side-jobs and making ends meet in order to get an education. I applaud them. I had a friend who worked a full-time day-job and studied in the evenings to complete her Honours in Accounting. She was one of only 15% of the people in our year who managed to work full-time and pass. Only Fifteen percent passed. I don’t think I could have managed to pass if I was in her boots: I was on a bursary myself. And if I didn’t have a bursary, I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been.

Neil Tyson said “It’s ok to encourage others to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. But if you do, just remember, some people have no boots”. Ouch.

We are at a tipping-point in our country. We have one of the worst levels of inequality, between the dust-covered-poor and the rich who have money-like-dust. And we can’t place the blame solely on Jacob Zuma this time. It’s Apartheid, and corrupt governments, and drugs, and broken homes, and sin, and a countless list of problems. And while I am a firm believer in praying to God to heal our land and its problems, I can’t shake the feeling that part of the solution has been placed in my hands. And in yours. We all have a responsibility to help our youth, to assist and encourage and contribute to their futures. It’s not just the responsibility of the rich, but also the middle-class and the poor. Black, White, Coloured, Indian. Everyone.

Hopelessness doesn’t have favourites, it affects us all. The cycle of poverty doesn’t break itself.

I’ve heard more than once that we are sitting on a time-bomb. The rising levels of unemployment and lack of opportunity for the youth will compound, and the future can look bleak. Tick. Tick. Tick. Nobody will be unaffected by the fallout, even if you move to Australia or lock yourself in your own world.

I do believe there is a bomb. But I also believe that each person, right now, can determine if that explosion will be the downfall of our country through the anger and frustration of a hurting generation. Or that explosion can be an explosion of opportunity, of hope, of chances for people to make something of a future for themselves. Tick. Tick tick.

There’s a Letanya right now who could do with your help, your encouragement, guidance and finances. And yes, it will be a sacrifice for you. But it is so so worth it. There are many initiatives that could do with your assistance. Heck, if you can’t find one, speak to me.

Lala was our first personal venture into this Active Enablement Initiative (I just named it that now, guess I should first check with my wife if she agrees 🙂 . But Lala is not the last. We choose to help create the positive explosion, to contribute positively to our society. We choose to live out our Faith through actions, even if it means foregoing some luxuries to make it happen. We choose hope.

We still stand by lobbying Government for free education and upliftment of the poor. But even if Fees don’t fall (in the short-term), Hope Will Rise. It’s just a matter of time.




JAMES 2:14-17 (MSG)

“Do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?”