This is the commitment I made in 1998 after five years of visiting my old school, Kwa-Manala High, with the intention to motivate the learners. I did not know what I was going to do, but all I knew was that I must re-learn, improvise, then innovate to impact the learners and community around. Steve Jobs said: “You cannot count your steps going forward, but going backwards.” After a series of pains, loss, frustration, rejection, misinterpretations, lack of knowledge, no clear understanding, no resources and many more challenges, I can now say confidently without fear or any doubt: “I am ready to serve and tell a story of hope to inspire Africans to discover their collective power.”
It started when I failed my standard nine two times and passed only on the third attempt. My then English teacher, Mr Maleka, and Business Studies teacher, Mr Peta, on separate ocassions reprimanded me for my lackadaisical performance as they believed I was talented and smart. Everything changed that year, I passed my standard nine (grade 11) to proceed to ten (grade 12), and I did not repeat my matric. I was now inspired then to make reading a way of life until today – and this helped me become an innovative thinker. I was inspired everyday to overcome complicated challenges of life.
Dr Nelson Mandela words challenged me more when he said “take it upon yourself where you live to make people around you joyful and full of hope”. Again “none of us is a superstar and none of us can succeed without the success of the other”. Prof Eskia Mphahlele is another legend who fuelled my commitment when he said “let us find ourselves happening to our events, instead of always responding to events happening to us”. Again he said “If we believe that the mind refuses to be encamped, then we must also believe that education as a carrier of culture will give the mind the power to push out beyond the fence that limits our growth”. Yes, I am committed and ready to serve.
How will I serve and who will benefit?
My painful journey gave birth to two special organizations, TaEX Innovation & Consulting and Ordinary Layman Foundation which will facilitate all the initiatives towards serving our communities with dignity. We developed multi-impact programs which will be instrumental to achieve our envisaged strategic objectives. Our commitment is to make progressive education fashionable among the youth. This will help transform our education into a tool for community development through collective participation and collaborations.
Our Goals by 2025 are as follows:
- Contributing towards decolonization of education
- Practically making education a societal issue
- Promoting uptake and passing of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by 50%
- Stopping vandalization of school infrastructure and raise funds to renovate 70 rural & township schools
- Inspiring 100 000 learners to appreciate and respect education
- Stopping the violence in our schools – including bullying among learners and terrorising of teachers – inculcating a culture of respect to the teaching profession
- Inspiring rural and township social economy
- Reducing school drop-out by 50%
- Increasing matric performance by 40%
- Influencing new form of progressive conversations among the learner-teacher-parent communities.
Black communities will claim back their full responsibilities for the development of their children’s educations and reduce their absolute dependency on government.
How will this benefit our communities and the country on the day to day basis?
- Re-directing social energy and entrenching social cohesion
- Making our schools special and respected place of community development
- Re-inspiring our demotivated youth and communities
- Discovering and celebrating African developmental innovations
- Promoting and inspiring collective accountability
- Re-attracting investors in the development of our education and communities
- Improving the social wellbeing of our communities
- Encouraging more participation of professionals and celebrities in participating in motivational and uplifting initiatives for the learners in both rural and township schools
- Creating job opportunities for the unemployed youths.
This mission is full of challenges but I remain unshaken to finish what I started 24 years ago. Words of encouragement from the community and its leaders keep me grounded and unshaken. I derive my inspiration also from Prof Eskia Mphahlele when he said: “Education and arts have the potential to unify and should be our common front.” And my mantra is inspired by our global icon, Nelson Mandela, when he said: “In the same way we waged war against apartheid education, government and communities should work together to combat those factors which militate against effective learning and teaching.”
After losing almost everything I had in life due to medical challenges which still persist to this day, I am convinced God gave me this new lease of life to continue executing this mission for the betterment of my community. I feel privileged that I am still alive after having survived:
- 7 Car incidents (six before 2009 and the seventh in 2020)
- 2 kidney problems
- 1 bout of Prostate cancer
- 6 Strokes since 2019 till now
- My health condition now, is a ticking bomb ready to explode.
Our Progress so far
At TaEX Innovation we are social entrepreneurs, offering research and development services. We continue to monitor factors destructively affecting our communities and schools. We continue to develop new systems to improve the quality of our education. We follow three steps: identifying a challenge; monitoring its risks or side effects; then deliberately taking initiative to innovatively solve it. We are professional volunteers.
Ordinary Layman Foundation work alongside with TaEX Innovation to provide services recommended to them. From 2021 we started after school services to assist learners by giving them second chance better understanding of their schoolwork and also to give them more hope that they will make it at the end of the year. We started with three learners, now we have 65 learners from grade three to matric.
We are ready to increase scope of our services, however, the challenge is inadequate resources and we hope to forge collaborations with corporates who believe in the offerings of both TaEX and OLM Foundation.
My medical conditions are getting worse every day and I now live one day at a time, not even sure if I will live long enough to share or spread my knowledge and solutions. Doctors at the public hospital said there is nothing they can do. The 6th stroke caused more damage, keeping correct diet is a challenge, but I will continue fighting until I find a solution.
I am committed to seeing all these initiatives produce lasting solutions and give my country hope by changing the lives of ordinary man, woman and schools infrastructure of our country one village and township at a time.
My three main challenges I need help on:
- Medical support team – To help monitor my medical challenges regularly
- Mentors, at least two – To discuss and guide my programmes
- Strategic partner – Who I can help promote our programmes.
Our history as country inspire me, hence I refuse to give-up. We are a nation with extra ordinary abilities to overcome complicated challenges through our principles of botho/ubuntu. “The challenges affecting our basic education cannot be left to the government alone to solve individuals, organizations, social groups; companies must identify where they can add value and do so when opportunity arises “by TR.
We are a talented nation with a lot positive energy, when our social environment and platforms will be levelled for everyone to participate we have a chance to overcome our complex socio-economic challenges. Relying solely on politicians to solve our individual, community and national problems is a futile exercise. But if we learn to appreciate these three steps of collective accountability to collective participation, then collective celebration we will overcome as long as we can share common vision.
Let me conclude with words of the great Prof Patrice Lumumba when he said as Africans “we cannot continue to lament, we (have become) prisoners of lamentation and expect God to solve things we can fix ourselves.”
I am ready to serve and contribute to achieving our country’s Vision 2030 goals, through social cohesion.
Rodney Tabane could be reached on email@example.com