REFLECTING ON YOUTH DAY: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES MALOPE

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In commemoration of Youth Day, BRIDGE spoke to James Malope – the head of the LEAP Science and Maths School in Diepsloot which provides free education to learners from disadvantaged communities and have Mathematics, Physical Science and English as mandatory subjects. James shares stories and lessons learned from his youth which contributed to him being involved in bettering the lives of the youth in South Africa today.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself

A: I am James Malope. I was born in Johannesburg. I completed my Matric in Cape Town and I also went to university in Cape Town. My interests are bringing about change, caring for and helping others. I am into sports which I do with my kids (learners at LEAP) on Wednesdays.

Q: Who did you look up to when you were growing up and why?

A: Growing up I struggled with having a proper role model. I didn’t stay with my parents. I didn’t have a proper home. I used to move around a lot. In grade 11 I started looking up to Anthony Farr, CEO of Allan Gray Orbis Foundation at the time. He is the type of person that brings out the best in others and this pushed me to bring out the best in myself. Another person I looked up to growing up was John Gilmour cause he is a person who cares and makes sure that people give as much as possible to make others succeed.

Q: What inspired you to become a teacher?

A: Before matric I never thought about teaching, however John Gilmour suggested teaching to me. He suggested that I try this out for a year. From there, one year became 4 years as I started to enjoy teaching and going to help out at LEAP. I started to enjoy this, as I could see the children grow and I realised that I could make a significant change if I went into education. After this I didn’t want to do anything else and I’m now doing my honours in Educational Management which John guided me into.

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Q: What was your journey to becoming a teacher?

A: I was born and raised in a squatter camp. I lived with a single parent but she didn’t have a proper job. She tried her best but she struggled and therefore I decided to help out with earning a bit of money by doing some work here and there. However, I started misbehaving. I joined gangs etc. I went to Kingsway College with  the help of a lady that I saw dropping off children. I asked her if I could join them. Thereafter I was accepted at Cornerstone College on a scholarship and I was there until grade 11. Due to losing a father I started misbehaving and was asked to leave the school. Thereafter I went to Cape Town where I did grade 11 again and then went on to do my university degree and just as I was about to finish my mom passed away. This was difficult because I wanted my mom to see me get my matric as I am the first one in the family and I wanted her to see me graduate. But her funeral gave me the strength to continue. I went back to LEAP in Cape Town and I was offered a job by John to join LEAP in Johannesburg. I was the HOD for humanities, then the instructional leader and then asked to step in and became the head of the school.

Q: What advice would you give to the youth of today?

A: Do something that you are passionate about, don’t just do something because you want the money or just to survive. Be passionate about something and keep working hard at it. Another thing I would say is to be patient, many people just want to get into big positions but wait for the right moment or thing to come to you and you will usually get what is best for you but if you rush it you find yourself getting stuck.

Q: What does Youth Day in South Africa mean to you?

A: It’s a time for me to reflect, to look at what young people in our past have fought for and it allows me to reflect on what I would like to see happen now. It inspires me to work hard so that the youth of today can achieve what they want to achieve. It is a guide for me to see how I can help the youth to be better.

Inspiring words from James which show that if we invest in our youth and continue to inspire them to better themselves, they will grow up to be the next generation of people to look up to and like James, we can all use Youth Day to reflect on South Africa’s past, the struggles of the youth and be inspired by this and decide to take action!

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