I have watched Julius Malema over the years with some indifference and then interest and last week I found myself feeling proud as he graduatedwith a BA Honours degree in Philosophy. We must support the youth in our country to seek out role models who represent what is possible in South Africa. Malema was teased for failing woodwork. He never defended himself, he educated himself. A good example to all of us. Success is an action. The best form of defence is to take responsibility for your own life, be accountable for your actions and show authority in how you choose to show up in the world.

Back in the 1980s we were at a private school while our country burned. Our family chose to leave the private school and join the youth at government schools that were sacrificing a year of school while fighting an unjust, unequal and oppressive exclusion. My three sisters and I left our safe school and repeated the academic year with the girls and boys we socialised with at youth groups in Athlone on the Cape Flats where we lived.

It gave us an experience of what the government schools had to offer, what the system was they were fighting for and we had the privilege of comparing what we were used to and what it was that scholars were impacted by. Apartheid became very real and a necessary evil to overcome.

Never was it an option to fight apartheid and put our education on the backburner while we did so. Our father came from a family who prioritised education and made the relevant financial and other sacrifices to ensure all their children had the best possible access to education. We went to our private school as a quota of coloured girls. Our father had a permit to study law at UCT in the 1960s.

The education we were afforded included so much more than classroom academics, we had life lessons which impacted all future life choices. This contributed to us having an informed view about the importance of social justice, active citizenry, equipping yourself with education and having a purpose in life that is bigger than your own ambitions.

A peer from our youth group Robbie Waterwich opted out of the UCT education system as he was 100% committed to freeing our country from apartheid. As a teenager, he joined the underground ranks of MK and was ultimately murdered by the security police. At his recent memorial service a doctor friend of his paid tribute and told us what Robbie had told her: ”You must get educated, in the new South Africa we are going to need doctors, teachers and people who can lead us!” The risk he took, his courage and bravery, his humility, the loss of his life and his determination to live in a free and equal South Africa is still a motivator for us, to do what we have to do, so that we can do what we want to do.

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to save the world.” This is what Madiba famously said. He would have been informed by his own efforts to get himself educated and to work towards a free and democratic South Africa.

I think we should make every effort in all the circles we find ourselves to highlight the value of education. Education opportunities extend beyond universities, but developing a skill, a way of thinking and a way of being can be learnt and taught. The only way we will sort out the complexities of our country is to find innovative new solutions to repetitive destructive cycles. Education is a route out of a predictable future.