‘I will never take freedom for granted again’

Lulu Nongogo, founder of the NGO Lulwazi Lethu, speaks to the pupils about the careers expo, which was held during their three-day camp at Robben Island.

Twenty Sinenjongo High School pupils from Joe Slovo Park attended a three-day camp on Robben Island to learn about the sacrifices of the anti-apartheid political prisoners.

They were among a group of 61 pupils who attended the camp, organised by the Department of Human Settlements and NGO Lulwazi Lethu,
from Friday July 14 to Sunday July 16.

The other pupils came from Nelson Mandela’s village in Qunu.

On arriving at Robben Island, the group was cuffed and forced to walk in pairs to show them how the political prisoners were treated.

Some of the group thought they were just going on a tour to see the famous island but it turned out to be learning tour, said Thubelihle Dhlula, 18, from Sinenjongo High School.

Teaching the pupils about the political prisoners was part of marking International Mandela Day, which is held on July 18, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, every year.

Thubelihle said she learnt a lot from the trip and values the contribution made by the country’s heroes.

“I will never take this freedom for granted again. Blood was spilled so that I could have a better future,” she said.

Lulu Nongogo, the founder of Lulwazi Lethu, said a career expo which was held during the camp informed the pupils about career paths they could pursue after matric.

She said in the past they used to transport pupils from Cape Town to Qunu but decided to switch it around this time.

She said the aim was to afford pupils from disadvantaged communities an opportunity to see Robben Island and learn more about the history of the country.

She described the camp as an eye-opener for the pupils and it was the first time a career expo had been held at Robben island.

“It was my dream to bring people from Qunu to see where exactly Mandela was staying so that they don’t just read it only in books. The reality is that these pupils cannot afford to come and visit such places and we are trying to close that gap. We need to take pupils to heritage sites so that they can better understand the many sacrifices that were made so that they can have this freedom that they are enjoying today. We need to rally together to educate them. Our vision is to empower black children with everything we have,” she said.

Isaac Skhosana, spokesperson for the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Zou Kota-Fredricks, said as the department they felt obliged to provide a rare opportunity for these pupils so that they understand the history of their country.

He said it was part of their mandate to give back to the community.

“As soon as they arrived on the island on Friday there was a role-playing session, which meant they were going to walk in the footsteps of the prisoners; see how the prisoners were taken from the harbour to the jail cells.

“They walked through the bushes, there were Robben Island facilitators who were emulating the warders of the time, even the language that they were using,” said Mr Skhosana.

He said after the session the reaction of the pupils was different as they got the real experience of how prisoners were treated. He said he hopes that the pupils have learnt something from the camp.

Ndima Kagiso,19, a Grade 12 pupil from Milton Mbekela Secondary School in Qunu village in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, said: “We learnt a lot from the camp, besides history we learnt about our future careers from Ulwazi Lwethu.”

She said that she felt privileged that she was among the pupils chosen to attend the camp.

Sinenjongo High School principal Khuselwa Nopote urged the pupils to stay in school for the sake of the sacrifices that were made by the anti-apartheid freedom fighters.

She said they should share the information and knowledge that they have gained with their peers at school.