An Oasis of Knowledge

By Nana Lipholo

A very good morning, to you, the esteemed guests of our gracious hosts. It is with great pleasure; I stand here before you today, to a share a piece of my life, as a student, at Open Air School. With academia comes great challenge, a norm for every student. These challenges have somehow developed my self esteem and awareness as to the route I want to pursue in life.

Being a woman in the South African context or on a global level has its drawbacks but being a woman living with Albinism is another level. On a daily basis one has to contend with the naming and shaming routine: stereotypes, judgements and insecurities – a direct insult to my identity, my self worth.

Albinism is a skin condition due to the lack of pigmentation with severe consequences – becoming visually impaired and skin sensitivity. Both somehow feed into a restricted or isolated lifestyle. This vulnerable view of life is not the way I am willing to accept. There is always the exception to the rule. I believe you have to fight really hard to reach that finish line.

Surely we all love reminiscing about our years at school. The rush, the adrenalin as well as the strife we had to face to maintain the true ethos of that institution. Unfortunately there are those dark days when you think nothing is going to get you out of this one.  For me it is the value system, promoted at every turn, at Open Air School – the OASIS – that I have become a much more confident and active student.

I can proudly say this is due to the five pillars: RESPECT, RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILTY, TEAMWORK and GRATITUDE.

Respect should actually be second nature for us since the first grounding we receive is at home amongst family. In the African culture respect for your elders is one of the initial stepping stones to ones rite of passage. Respecting others stems from this rule thereby understanding the true value of this trait. This ultimately grooms and enables one to establish self respect. These levels of respect somehow share a symbiotic relationship when both parties adhere to it in a positive and progressive manner.

Your rights then become quite clear. You are then in charge of all that you are entitled to – the most important one being Education. It is also imperative to respect the rights of others as this enables one to mingle, merge and prosper within society. We must never lose sight of the fact that every right comes with a responsibility. Responsibility obviously becomes more demanding as we grow older. Taking ownership in everything you do and being able to realize your flaws without blaming people around you shows a fair measure of responsibility. In a school setting ones responsibilities can be tested to the hilt by negative entities – I can definitely identify with that. Avoid that dust bowl of delinquents and lead a righteous life. The support from parents, teachers, fellow colleagues and  I would be failing in my duty if I did not mention our host – a proactive organization- that proved that band aid to save the reputation of many young individuals out there.

This all ties in quite well with the other important trait – TEAMWORK. We are groomed to be strutting individuals – in our own right, so that the constant support and encouragement of those working closely with us tends to strengthen the final outcome. Today it is quite evident with the presence of my fellow sisters who chose to join and support me. Thank you my OASIS family – I am humbled by your gesture.

Finally, this brings me full circle to that really crucial attribute – Gratitude. WE must never fail to acknowledge those who seek the best possible choice, route or journey for us. WE must be grateful for what little we have as I am sure there are many out there who are less fortunate than we are. So, yes! I am grateful. Grateful  to  my parents for their support, grateful to Open Air School for all the positive grooming and last but not least , I am most grateful today to the  Union of Jewish Women for affording me this platform to share  my views with an ‘OASIS of Knowledge’.

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