Lwando Mzandisi

Member, Equal Education

For part of his matric year Lwando Mzandisi did not have a physical sciences teacher. He barely passed the subject and although he had done well in other subjects he knew that he would not be able to pursue his dream of studying medicine.

Remembering the first day, when he was 10 years old, that he realised he wanted to help people, he said: “In the village where I grew up, one of the grannies was sick… her family took her to the taxi stop in a wheelbarrow to get to the hospital. I wanted to be a doctor so I could go back to a place such as Sundwana township in rural Eastern Cape and help someone like her.”

He couldn’t help as a doctor, but he could help as a teacher and in 2012 Mzandisi, who is now 22, started a bachelor of education at the Cape Peninsula Institute of Technology in Cape Town.

It was hard for Mzandisi to get an education. The government schools he attended in the Eastern and Western Cape did not have the basics that a school should. That was why he decided to be a teacher – so he could one day be the teacher for others that he did not always have. His resolve to do this was strengthened when he moved to Cape Town to start high school and later became a member of nongovernmental organisation Equal Education (EE).

“Before I joined EE I didn’t have a clear understanding of the crisis of education,” he said, but he soon realised that he and his classmates were by no means the only ones to have suffered under crippling learning conditions. After school he started working for EE designing campaigns for better learning conditions and rights-awareness programmes for pupils and parents and has continued despite being a full-time student. He first realised the power of pupils’ voices when a 2008 campaign to get the government to put up R18 000 to fix 500 windows at Khayelitsha’s Luhlaza High School really took off.

“The campaign grew fast and by the end we got the government to put up R671 000 for not just windows but also other infrastructure,” he said. There have been other success stories since then and until Mzandisi becomes a teacher, he is going to make sure that this winning streak continues. — Victoria John