Poverty all too often brings a culture of poverty to a community.
In Tsepisong you will see that many of the street signs have been bent into different positions so that when you drive down David Webster Ave you come to a corner that shows the name ‘David Webster Ave’ and ‘Asvat St’ both pointing down Asvat street.
So I asked why. (I always do...curious monkey that I am). The answer was that it was so that you could see which street you were on. I demurred and was told that it made sense to people who lived in Tsepisong. Well, maybe it did – but anyone visiting Tsepisong was confused...And when anyone left Tsepisong they would be out of step with the rest of the world...
I am troubled by the very insular nature of some communities. This idea that nothing matters outside of one’s own ambit.
I know that lack of money makes travel difficult. That holidays are going home to the place where one’s family comes from; an important link for many South Africans. I know that going to movies, plays, music concerts, wild life reservations, museums and the zoo are often out many peoples economic power.
I know that libraries, although Tsepisong boasts a really lovely one, are not used by older people or the very young who depend on caregivers to get children to the library. The school going children do use it – which I hope will mean that later they will encourage their own children to use it.
I am reminded of the miners clubs of the 1800’s and early 1900’s where miners had access to books, talks, art and other sources of information and ‘hobby’ type skill development. This kind of development was satisfying, useful and gave people avenues in which to grow.
Unfortunately the need to survive the life all too many South Africans have to endure creates a culture of poverty – one that stifles personal growth and insulates the mind and body. The mind gets so full of troubles and holding oneself together that it forgets to grow. The future is not planned for and the past repressed or forgotten and not learned from. The present, (which I know we must live in) is not lived in thoughtfully but in a unheeding, chaotic way.
One thing that I find my new students struggle with is holding information from one week to the next. I have to consciously build this ability in them – and hold the information for them until they can do so themselves.
But ‘making the most of what one has’ is hard when one has had a childhood that has not built resilience or consciousness of self and self -growth into it...so this is why I try to build resilience, thoughtfulness, and self-knowledge into my students minds. And why I get them to read newspapers and discuss them...and give them food for thought in new ideas or happening in the world – whether people are talking of setting up a colony on Mars or a new hominid has been discovered in Sterkfontein caves...
We can all grow our minds until the day we die – and it is this very growth that makes our lives richer; patterned like a lovely patchwork rather than tattered like an old dogs blanket...