Flipping the script on poverty with determination and ambition


When Thulani Madondo went to school, apartheid wrote the rules. By providing a lesser quality of learning, the Bantu education system was designed to ensure that the people it oppressed stayed down. But Madondo was no pushover. He did his homework in a cramped one-bedroom shack shared with eight other people, and became the first person in his family to finish high school. Impressive, but Madondo was never going to let that be his only achievement. Armed with determination and ambition, he would use his education to rise up and uplift those around him.

Now the director of the Kliptown Youth Program, Madondo has 460 children and young people under his wing. Providing resources, equipment, teaching and mentorship to young learners, the program is inspiring a new generation of achievers, determined to go beyond the life set out for them. In 2016, its students achieved a 90% pass rate in their final year and over 30 past beneficiaries have gone on to receive university qualifications. In a town where running water, electricity, and resources to support a basic life are scarce, this is a phenomenal achievement. Despite the history of the place and the poverty that pervades, what lies ahead is bound to be greater.

“It always makes me smile every time there’s a young person getting a degree or a diploma. I know that one day they will also give back by helping others,” Madondo says. With a purposeful attitude and the efforts of the Kliptown Youth Program, he is rewriting the script that apartheid laid out for Kliptown, using education as the first step to a better life.