Born lucky: Reflections by a young technologist on youth day


Sometimes I ask myself how I got here on the path I have chosen to take. I mean, it does not take much for me to imagine how things could have been different.

When people think of South Africa they think of Apartheid, 1994 and the genesis of the Rainbow Nation. One of the few things people tend to forget when they reminisce about the struggles and sacrifices of the past is the reality of those they love reminiscing about the most.

Take me, for example. Where I’m from, Eersterust in north-east Tshwane, the past is irrelevant. Even though it has played such a huge role in how Eersterust is today, most people’s thoughts are preoccupied with the present. I’m from a place where murder is laughter and drugs are breakfast. Yes, I grew up in the belly of the beast.

The second youngest of six children, my father met his untimely end when I was only five. Thirteen bullets in all. It’s not a very unusual way to go out in Eerseterust. Anybody involved in gangsterism will tell you exactly that.

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So it was up to my single mother to raise us in what seemed like purgatory.

I am one of the lucky few who made it out. A lot of my old friends would love to be where I am. Most of them are in jail, and those are the lucky ones. The others were very unfortunate and are now dead. I should know because we buried one every second week.

I’m certain instead of where they ended up, they would rather be doing the things I’m doing. Like re-coding the C library from scratch. Who would not prefer that to gang shoot-outs and drug dealing? I don’t know about you, but recreating the virtual bullets of the classic Wolfenstein 3D game sounds much more appealing than a real bullet to the head.

Some might wonder at how someone whose present life is such a contrast to that of his origin can get to a place where he can say he is at the forefront of education and tech development in South Africa. They might see it as vindication of the opportunities available in the country today.

But maybe the question should be why every child in the country should not have the same opportunity as I do.

Things could have been different for me but thankfully they are not. I am at a place where inspiration is just all around you. A place where trendsetters and CEO’s of multinational corporations occasionally pop in for a talk. Where else can any student experience all that?

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I’m certain that if you had to choose between numerous other paths I could have taken and being at We Think Code, you would make the same decision as I did. If you were born lucky enough to have the chance to make it.

Written by Kgomotso Mofokeng & Philip Jacobs.

This story is part of a regular series written for htxt.africa by students of WeThinkCode_, a revolutionary new teaching college in downtown Johannesburg, reflecting on what it’s like to be a young technologist starting out in South Africa today. Find out more about WeThinkCode_ by clicking here.

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