Should I stay or should I go
South Africa. Land of majestic mountains and rolling plateaus. A country with breathtaking beaches and scorching deserts. Birth place of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Jock of the Bushveld. We should be proud and delighted to call ourselves South African citizens. Yet, if you read any paper or scroll down anyone’s Facebook newsfeed these days there seems to be an overwhelming sense of doom. We are bombarded by crime, xenophobia, corruption, Nkandla, E-tolls and yet another Afrikaans hit with the word “baby” repeated 79 times.
Looking back over the past months I think something shifted somewhere in the past year. Somewhere between university strikes and JZ laughing in our faces, a nation is being plunged into a darkness that has nothing to do with Eskom load shedding. Even the most positive among us are getting more worried by the day.
The way things are going now, is it even worth building a future here? And more importantly: is there a future here for the next generation, I wondered. So I did what we do if we have any question in this day and age: I googled it. "Why do we stay in South Africa?"
The world wide web has a plethora of heart-warming South-Africa-is-awesome-lists mostly involving the first heart transplant and the fact that the ‘Kreepy Krawly’ was invented by two guys from Randburg. Do these things restore my pride? Am I reassured that this is a country where I want to raise my children? I must admit, not really. If we have to go back to Dr Barnard shifting boundaries in 1967 to find some national pride, then we have a huge problem.
So I turned off my laptop (the battery was running low anyway and we were in the midst of stage two load shedding) and asked myself the question. Why do I still want to be here? Why do I want my children to grow up here? I have lived, studied and worked abroad and I have a fair idea of how our daily lives compare to those in other countries. I have walked home alone safely at 3 in the morning in Edinburgh and slept with an unlocked front door in the French countryside and I can honestly tell you that these are not the things I yearn for my kids to experience in life.
No. Africa has some more substantial opportunities I would rather expose my children to.
- It is an awesome place to learn
In South Africa we have access to a huge variety of schooling options. At a tertiary level, the University of South Africa is a pioneer of distance education and is the largest correspondence university in the world with more than 300 000 students. Eleven of South Africa’s 23 universities rank in the top 7% of the 20 000 registered universities worldwide, and seven are in the top 3% according to the QS Survey which involves 60 000 academics and 30 000 business executives worldwide. The current turmoil on campusses countrywide does not change the fact that we have some of the best facilities and programmes in the world.
But the tests I hope my kids excel in have nothing to do with textbooks and everything to do with joy, tolerance and empathy. Where else in the world are our children exposed to so many languages, cultures and opinions. I want them to learn to stand up for their own values without forcing their beliefs on others. I want them to learn about other’s cultures and history and take the best of everything they learn to create their own vision for the future. I want my kids to be adaptable, inventive and open-minded and our beautiful rainbow nation gives them the opportunity to practise these skills every single day.
- It is an awesome place to get active
Not only do we have amongst the highest ranked rugby and cricket sides in the world, but we have top sportsmen in almost every other sport including, surfing, golf, athletics, sailing and swimming. South Africa is home to the world’s largest cycle race (the Cape Argus Cycle Race), the world’s largest open water swim (the Midmar Mile) and the world’s largest marathon (the Comrades Marathon).
In this beautiful country of ours my kids have world class opportunities to be part of a team and to learn about pushing themselves to their limit and do their absolute best. They will learn how to handle it when you lose and even more importantly, how to win gracefully. I want my kids to play outside, run, jump and fall. Most of all I want them to learn to get up again. Every time. As we South Africans do.
- It is an awesome place to experience nature
As we arrived home one evening a few weeks ago I heard my 7-year-old tell her sister “Let’s go play outside, the sun does not load shed.” South Africa has deserts, mountains, escarpments, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests. Our winters are toasty compared to many other countries and our summers are breath-taking. I want my kids to breathe the sultry air of Kwazulu Natal and to listen to a crackling fire on a balmy lowveld evening. I want them to gaze over the majesty of the Drakensberg and I want them to experience the splendour of a highveld thunderstorm. According to the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, Cape Town has the fifth bluest sky in the world. I don’t know about you but I want to raise my children under the 5th bluest sky in the world.
So I’ve established that South Africa is the place I want to raise my kids… but what’s in it for me?
- It is an awesome place to quench your thirst!
South Africa has the longest wine route in the world. Our wines are world renowned and for good reason. Furthermore South African Breweries rank as the second largest brewing company in the world. It supplies up to 50% of China’s beer and it purchased USA based Millers Brewery in 2003. Finally, scientific studies from South Africa and Japan corroborate findings of potent antioxidants in an indigenous herb tea from the Cape region of South Africa. Yes, you’ve guessed it… rooibos is caffeine-free and it shows anti-mutagenic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity. In English: it’s very, very good for you.
Ok, put down the wine/rooibos and let’s get back to the kids. There is one more reason why I refuse to go and raise them anywhere else.
- It is the place with the most awesome people in the world
Two of the world’s most profoundly compassionate philosophies come from South Africa – Ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity) and Satyagraha: Gandhi’s notion of passive resistance which he developed while living in South Africa. Our people are some of the most courageous in the world. Deborah Patta said in a recent speech we as South Africans “manage to draw on deep reservoirs of courage when faced with difficult situations.”
I also love how we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We can laugh at ourselves and are allowed to laugh at ourselves because we actually have one of the most liberal constitutions in the world. South African media ranks 42nd out of 180 countries in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, higher than France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and all of the other BRICS countries.
- Possibly, most important of all: we are an incredibly compassionate nation
We laugh together and celebrate together but when the time comes we also grieve with each other and pull together in our thousands to support a cause we feel passionate about. Just like any family we bicker and we disagree. But when it is most needed we open our hearts and often our wallets to those who need it most. Our people have survived through so much and have so much wisdom to share. I want my children to grow up surrounded by this wisdom.
Yes, we’ve got problems. Big deal. We are South Africans. We’ve come through every version of oppression before and beat it every time. Together. Those of us that have been here for 2000 years, those of us that have been here for 300 years and those of us who have been here for 5 years are all a part of what makes us so incredibly dynamic, resourceful and resilient.
Even the most positive amongst us get disheartened sometimes by the long road our country still has to walk but the important thing is not to influence our children and raise frustrated entitled kids. Surround them with love, laughter and Ubuntu. Let’s guide them to learn from our mistakes and work hard, along with the rest of their generation to ensure an even brighter future under the 5th bluest sky in the world.
This article was first published on Master of Quills
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