People's Power Rules... People's Power Rocks...

My Saturday is a paradox of sorts - I am a victim of crime just before going to two community peace-building events

Waking up to news of a burglary...

When I heard our car had been burgled during the early hours of this morning, I lost my temper. Yes, I ranted, the burglary was an act waiting to happen because we are too careless. We should learn to remove the car radio and valuables from the car and park the vehicle in the garage where it belongs. I suppose I could be forgiven for the outburst under the circumstances. 

Getting my egg down...

Once all the pent-up emotions subsided, sanity kicked in. We should not be too surprised when we become victims of theft, especially when we are surrounded by poverty-stricken communities where 40% of employable youth can’t find work and where family heads struggle to put bread on the table.  This is the reality. But this is just the start of my day...

At Lavender Hill High School

Lavender Hill from the parking area of the Lavender Hill High school 
About 8h30 I rushed from home to attend two school community events in different parts of the Lavender Hill-Retreat area.  My first stop is Lavender Hill High School, situated in a community where unemployment is visible, gangs mushroom and stacks of bland high rise blocks of flats dot the skyline. As I enter the makeshift school hall, I become part of a community of enthusiastic, passionate parents, learners, teachers and NGO members ready to talk about empowering the young people of Lavender Hill High school.  The principal, Faseeg Manie, beams with pride as he explains that this Y.E.S workshop is the first in a series of workshops planned by the School Governing Body.

Clifford, Deputy principal talking to parents and learners
When the conversations get underway, I join my group of parents and two learners of the school. Taswell, the chairperson of the RCL is a confident, outspoken young man. He speaks about ways to improve the services of the security personnel at the school. One of the parents can’t wait to have her turn. When we acknowledge her, she offers a solution to discourage the loitering of unemployed youth along the school fence. Every-
My group of parents and learners. Taswell, RCL chairperson sitting to my left.
body talks. Wisdom is shared freely in uncluttered language. This is real community activism. I spend about an hour in this warm, welcoming space.

Joining Cafda School of Skills school governing body workshop

Sharing and having fun while learning
Next I drive off to Cafda School of Skills about two kilometers from Lavender Hill to attend a training workshop for School Governing Bodies. Without any fanfare I am embraced by the 50-strong group of parents, educators, principals, learners and school support staff members. They are busy discussing critical issues of school governance and how to build their eight schools. These members mirror the same liveliness and comraderie I had just been part of at the other school. This is nation-building without the rhetoric.

Now what?

Levana Principal, Ivor, Deputy Principal, Fadia and Gavin, HOD  enjoying the workshop
The day was long. I am exhausted and my family and I are still reeling from our loss. We did not choose to become a crime statistic nor are we over the shock of having our private, personal space violated. I was reminded that we cannot allow anti-social elements to destroy what others are building. I think of the life-giving, powerful community events that I had been privileged to attend. 

School governors deep in conversation.

Many of the participants themselves struggle with unemployment and their loss of pride and human dignity that can so easily engulf them. Many of them are also struggling to give their children the best education and to help their proteges become the best they can be amidst the threats of the underworld of drugs and crime.

 Yet, these very people sacrifice their time, energy and they willingly share their wisdom to help construct healthy, thriving communities.

These community members are my heroes. These people – young and old – are the bridge builders of a better society. People’s power rocks!

View from Lavender High School on a Saturday morning.

Juan and Naseef enjoy early morning coffee before the workshop starts

Jacqui, an educator having a conversation with parents and learners.


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