“It takes a village to raise a child.” This has to be one of my favourite quotes. The meaning is simple and clear. I can truly relate to it as a child who was raised by the village and now has become a villager raising children.
My name is Siyasanga Malima. I am 25 years old and I am currently a grade 2 teacher at iThemba Primary school in Cape Town. I come from a small township called Masiphumelele where I’ve lived most of my life. I am the oldest in a family of three girls. My mom is a single parent. Growing up was hard, really hard. We lived in a two-room shack sharing one double bed between us. Sometimes we went to bed with nothing in our stomachs. Life was worse in winter when the roof would start leaking right on top of our bed. Or when the wind was too harsh, it felt like the shack would just blow away.
Through all of that, I’ve always known I was destined for a better life to bring change and comfort into my family. In grade 7, I was introduced to Alison by Okuhle, a friend of mine. For me, Alison opened a whole new way of perceiving life. She would take us out on picnics and ice cream dates, and up into the mountains – something I was never familiar with. I saw a promising life out of the township and that encouraged me to dream bigger so I too could one day take my sisters out on a picnic.
Alison introduced me to Tanya and to the Zoe Education Trust, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first Zoe Trust recipients. Through that I met Jon, who then offered to sponsor my whole high school education. He covered my fees, stationery, uniform, private maths lessons and travelling fees and that was my first step in reaching my goals.
After high school, I wasn’t entirely sure on what I wanted to study, so the first year after high school, I took a gap year and worked as a waitress at one of our local restaurants. The following year, I studied nursing part-time while working as a kindergarten teacher assistant at a Waldorf school. I enjoyed the assistant job so much I knew that was what I wanted to pursue more than nursing. The following year, with fees covered by the Zoe Trust, including new sponsors Caroline and Peter, I enrolled for a B.Ed degree at the Waldorf-based Centre of Creative Education College. There I learnt a lot of things not only about teaching and how to be a good teacher but more about myself, the person I am, the person I was, and the person I’m becoming.
Varsity days were quite challenging at home so I decided to move and stay at the college accommodation. But I couldn’t afford it – so Alison offered to support me with accommodation money every month.
The first two years I studied and worked on weekends so I could buy my essentials, food and toiletries. My Mom wasn’t able to send me money every month because she had two other children to look after. She only worked 3 days a week as a domestic worker. During the 3rd year at college, work was piling up; the modules were getting more challenging, so I needed the weekends to catch up with school work. I quit working on weekends. That might have been tough but I had supportive people around me, Tanya and her husband Niall, who offered to help me with food money every month. This meant I was able to focus on my studies without worrying what I was to have for supper.
After college, I made plans to travel to foreign countries in Asia or Europe and teach English. However, not everything you plan goes accordingly, so towards the end of my 4th year, I applied for a teaching job at iThemba Primary school. I felt I needed experience in teaching before I could travel.
This year, I graduated on the 14th March 2020. I now have a job and I’m renting an apartment close to work and so I am able to support my family. I couldn’t have achieved all of these things if it weren’t for the Zoe Trust and everyone who supported me not only financially but emotionally too. Alison has been a huge support in my life; she has become family.
A few words from Alison, Siya’s mentor since the age of 12:
As Siyasanga mentioned, I have known her since she was in Grade 7 – since she was twelve years old! I will always be so grateful to Siya for letting me step into her life, and for accepting the invitation to step into mine. Over the many years we have known each other, Siya has taught me about the incredible power of joy, despite circumstances, and how staying open and curious about the world, can help you to navigate even the most challenging times. It has been an utter privilege to be considered one of her ‘mothers’, and a source of support in her life. My whole family (my most immediate and my extended family) have been blessed by the good fortune of having her in our day-to-day lives. We love you darling.