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The following is a complete transcript from the HOPES ON THE HORIZON South Africa story:

Oh, my brothers and sisters, please listen to me. Your griot wants to speak to you.

NARR: In the early 1990s, Mozambique’s neighbor, South Africa, was the last nation on the continent under white dictatorship. Its apartheid policy of racial discrimination channeled resources to the white minority, while the black majority was deliberately impoverished and undereducated.

Nothing equals the art of the griot as a teacher.

NARR: 55 kilometers from Johannesburg, residents in the sprawling community of Orange Farm believed that education was the key to overcoming the legacy of apartheid. People began moving here in 1988, leaving behind the overcrowded conditions of nearby Soweto.

RAMOKOTLA LIKHALE – Orange Farm Resident
When this township was opened it was just a farm around here and we came to this place we built our shacks. As you can see there are still some shacks, around here. We found it imperative for us to come down to Orange Farm because we were promised a piece of land that would belong to us.

NARR: As Orange Farm was taking shape, momentous events overtook South Africa. In February, 1990 Nelson Mandela, leader of the banned African National Congress, was released after 27 years as a political prisoner.

SIMPHIWE MASIZA – Soweto Resident
To see Mandela being released we saw him as a hope, as a Messiah. We saw him as Moses, you know. A person that going to take us from slavery, you know, from the bondage of the white person to the Promised Land.

NARR: Mandela began negotiating to end white minority rule and abolish apartheid educational policies. He urged students to trust the negotiations, and to stop the disruptions they had carried out during years of school protests and boycotts.

Nelson Mandela – ANC Deputy Leader (Archival)
We want you to go to school and from tomorrow. That is the best way of welcoming me back among you.

Archival: Comrade, you there do you want to listen or you want to go home? OK. You must have order there and listen very carefully.

NARR: Many students rejected Mandela's appeal and continued their protests. Despite on-going negotiations, the apartheid government was still firmly in control of a system that consigned black people to second-class education and citizenship. Orange Farm, with 150,000 residents, had just one secondary school. The apartheid government made no effort to build more.

It was a complete chaos by then . . . there was man called De Beer around here, and he said I am dealing with the housing and land affair, I know nothing about education, there is nothing I can do, so we told him you can’t leave this office, before you tell us where we can take our children to.

IHRON RENSBURG – Education Activist
We then moved into a very difficult period, 91, 92, 93, extremely difficult period because the apartheid regime then unleashed its so-called Third Force . . . absolute devastation, absolute havoc . . . the sense that this war is not yet done; this liberation struggle is not yet over.


NARR: It was during these chaotic years that the residents of Orange Farm finally got approval from the apartheid regime, for a new secondary school, called Aha Thuto.

I’ve long applied to a principal-ship. I was not aware that I would be coming to this ocean of shacks. My excitement was a bit dampened when I arrived here to find that, yes the name of the school is there, but there are no buildings.

NARR: Aha Thuto's 400 students first attended classes in an unsanitary stable. Then they were forced to share space with two, already-overcrowded schools. But the greatest hardship was violence. Alongside students battling apartheid, unruly gangs fought to control the school and the township.

It was extremely dangerous. Because guns were carried all over.

ABRAM MOLELEKI – Vice Principal, Aha Thuto
The situation that scared me most was when boys exchanged bullets in the classroom. We were writing examination . . . So I feared for the lives of those poor kids and eh, bullets flying over their heads, we jumped for cover and the whole examination was disrupted.

NARR: Violence had been escalating since 1976. Students in Soweto took to the streets to protest an education system that for every 100 dollars spent on white children, spent only 6 on black children. On June 16, police opened fire, killing two protestors. It ignited riots nationwide, in which hundreds of people were killed. From that point on, young people and their schools became the center of mass protests, designed to make the country ungovernable for the white minority regime.

At that point in our history, there was a turning point, in terms of a younger generation almost taking over the struggle of black people.

PATRICK NXUMALO – Soweto Activist
That year, 1976, when it ended and we were supposed to sit down for final exams, we were not ready. Our, we, we hadn’t finished the syllabus. So we resorted to saying, “Pass one kid, we pass all” . . . If not so, we neck-laced them, or did funny things to them. So, I did away with schooling.

NARR: In the 1980s, leaders of the liberation movement tried to re-channel the widespread chaos among students into a movement for school reform.

The struggle became very focused around concrete things such as we wanted democratically elected student representative councils in our schools. We want democratically elected parent teacher student associations.

NARR: In 1993, Principal Hadebe renewed this call for community control at Aha Thuto. Violence was escalating, and fewer than 15 percent of the students taking their national matriculation exams were able to pass them. Hadebe suspended classes, allowing students back only if their parents got involved.

That’s when I first started to invest own interest in Aha Thuto, because I could share now the pain that the teachers had in that school. I had an interest by then because my son was in that particular school.

Basically, we said to the parents, “You can still support your child. You can still do something to enhance the interest of the children in the school.”

NARR: As its partnership with the community deepened, Aha Thuto took on the plight of an earlier generation. Patrick Nxumalo, who had dropped out in 1976, now lacked the qualifications to get a job. He enrolled.

I thought, I had better go to school and this thing of going to afternoon studies or night school will take me long. I didn’t want to idle many years. I just wanted to do my standard 10 in one year.

NARR: May 1994, South Africa looked to a better future as Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first democratically-elected president.

Never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.

When Mandela came into power, now we had this idea that uh, white people they will move out and then we are going to move to their houses and own their houses. You know you are going to-to get everything from Mahala for free.

We expected that we’ll have our own school building, we’ll have those things that we saw them in the white schools, eh, we’ll have, we’ll be better paid as teachers.

NARR: The new ANC government heightened expectations, promising to address the vast inequalities in housing, water, electricity supply, and education. But the transfer to black majority rule had left over 70 per cent of South Africa's land and wealth in the hands of the white minority, who were just 14 percent of the population. Money for reform depended on future economic growth. For now, there was little the government could do.


MARY METCALFE – ANC Minister for Education, Gauteng Province
We would have, I think, a couple of marches every week from different communities, carrying over the tradition of protests from–from pre-liberation, and coming to the new government to say, “We need a school.”

And it would be a question of explaining constraints and providing information and giving a sense of hope.


NARR: The ANC government did encourage school reform, officially empowering parent-teacher committees like the one at Aha Thuto.

RAMOKOTLA LIKHALE – Chairperson, Aha Thuto Governing Body
You know my relationship with the principal was a very good one. We sat down both of us and said, “OK, let us try and find out if we can bring about a new hope in the education system. What were the things that we were not able to perform in the past?” Now that we think we have been given more power and authority, that we be . . . , we can fit it into the system. So he brought about his dream, I brought about my dream.

GOLI HADEBE – Principal, Aha Thuto
I would dream a lot about the school. We wanted to take school to the dizzy heights.

NARR: Test scores began to improve at Aha Thuto. But the ANC's promised changes seemed as distant as ever.

ERIC MOLOBI – Government Advisor
At the time we were saying, “Within the first year we’ll deliver a million houses.” I mean, we realized afterwards that no, that’s not possible. You say “free education”. It’s not possible to – to deliver free education.

PATRICK NXUMALO – Adult Learner, Aha Thuto
When I obtained my exemption, my matric exemption, they told me, you can go wherever you want. The sky is the limit. Any university will take you and grant you bursaries. So I knew I had no money, but I told myself, I will have bursaries when I go to university. Hmm that was not the case, so hence I had to drop out at some stage.

Archival Mandela at Orange Farm, children sing.

NARR: Anticipation of increased government support was high when President Mandela visited Orange Farm settlement.

We want to insure a better life for everybody in this country. And that better life means the creation of jobs, the building of houses, of schools, I have brought today none of these things.

The speech of Mr. Mandela, eh, it opened minds of many people to know what is meant by free education. That in essence, nothing is free.

I said, it doesn’t mean this society should go and sleep or die, so that when the resources become available we start to live again. Let us do something so that when we get something, we shall be somewhere on the way.

NARR: With a student population that had grown to 1,000, yet still sharing classrooms with another school, Aha Thuto began its fourth year. But now there was an intense focus on improving performance.

SIMPHIWE MASIZA – Student, Aha Thuto
We had this principal called Hadebe. We saw him looking to our future, he can see five years down the line that there is a potential within us, we can reach our dreams. That’s when I started to – to challenge some of the young people in assembly and say ‘young people let us start to dream, let us start to be serious, let us start to be committed to our books, to education’. And you can see young people changing, you can see their reaction,

Men’s choir sings.

NARR: After years of lobbying, in April of 1996 the community of Aha Thuto finally had something to celebrate.

The new building . . . the day that we were handed the keys, I was the happiest man. We reopened into our new school. You know, the feel, everyone was moving from class to class. We were happy.

NARR: In their own classrooms at last, teachers and students adopted radical measures to raise achievement: early morning sessions were followed by long nights of studying.

It was exciting because you know, some of us guys, we don’t want to stay at home. You stay with your parents and your parents they will say to you, ‘you cannot just study throughout the night’ because they will tell you about their electricity bill, and for us it was uh, it was uh, an opportunity that ‘guys we need to – to capitalize on this opportunity’ and do something that is relevant and best for, for Aha Thuto.

NARR: At the end of the 1997 school year, the community anxiously awaited results of the national matriculation exams. Vice Principal Moleleki got a surprise from the District Director.

She kissed me, she wanted to hold my hand. And I didn’t know what was happening. Then she said “I’m proud of your school.” Then I said to her “Are result out today?” and she said “No, there are preliminary results. Come let me go and show you.” I had forgotten what I was, what I came for. And went I straight to her office. When I saw them, I drove straight to the township to tell my colleagues that our results are good.


NARR: Aha Thuto was the highest-ranking school in the region, with a pass rate of 90 percent.

The next morning, they were officially out. All of us converged to the school; the parents, the teachers, the learners. You know it was a feast.


Archival: Mary Metcalfe
It’s you and all of the work that you’ve been doing that’s made you one of the most important schools in South Africa. And if Aha Thuto can do it, everyone can do it.


NARR: In 1998, with a pass rate over 96 percent, Aha Thuto was again the leading school in its region.

For ten to fifteen minutes it is good news to you, you jump about and say we are still the best. But an hour later to start to feel the pressure on you, what is going to happen the next time? So attaining more and more better results was putting more and more pressure on the governing body, rather than saying it is good news and we can sit down, relax because we have done a good job.

What they’ve demonstrated is that with existing resources our children can succeed; that the appalling pass rates with serious commitment and determination can be reversed. But Goli Hadebe goes beyond that to say, actually, the quest is to improve quality. To pass is not enough.

NARR: For Hadebe's students, the victory was bittersweet. The continuing legacy of apartheid, meant graduates still faced massive unemployment and lack of money for higher education.

I want to go to university but I don’t have finance enough. I say no, the beter thing for me to do is to realize what I can do at this current moment. That’s when I started now to-to-to-to-do motivational talks [to school.] You know, I saw that thing it sort of started to develop the career in me, that pushed me to where I am now.

Scene of Simphiwe with black children: I see failure as somebody coming from the land of failure to the land of success. It’s an energy waiting to be released.

I’d still like to see myself graduating, finishing up what I started at the university, which I cannot since I am not working or I haven’t been working for so long. But anyway, I have positive expectations for the country.

PRES. THABO MBEKI – (Archival)
Twenty three years ago this day, children died in a youth uprising in Soweto, Johannesburg in a youth uprising which democratic South Africa honors as our national youth day.

In the second democratic dispensation now, things will be different. The issue of delivery is uppermost in the minds of every minister. They have to do it, because this is a time in which we are borrowed. We have to deal with white business, many of them have no confidence in–in a black government. We’ve got to bring them around, for them to understand that we must all contribute towards this issue of the national project of transforming this country.

NARR: Graduates of Aha Thuto now see themselves at the forefront of the struggle for economic freedom.

Tell me as an individual what can you do to bring an African Renaissance dream to come true?

Everybody thinking for himself. As an individual trying to build my life, and him also trying to build his. By that I think we can have Africa built to be one of the greatest continents in the world.

The liberation of this country came out of the children’s minds. Why can’t we bring the same creativity the other way round and create job employment, more opportunities, more positive thinking. So that we know where we are going to, what we are going to.

Some of us we think that we cannot do it, we think that uh, uh, we don’t have the potential. But I believe that collectively as Africans we can make an African renaissance dream to come true.

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