Modest, eager and soft spoken, Zukisani Lamani’s peak cap jaunts back cockily on his head. Coming from a troubled background, he is one of the noteworthy few to overcome near-overwhelming circumstances to pass their matric.
Modest, eager and soft spoken, Zukisani Lamani’s peak cap jaunts back cockily on his head. Coming from a troubled background, he is one of the noteworthy few to overcome near-overwhelming circumstances to pass their matric. This is mostly thanks to Amasango Career School, which is slowly but surely helping children like Lamani to not fall through the cracks.
Born in Grahamstown in 1984, Lamani grew up with a family who knew his grandparents. “I didn’t grow up knowing my father. He wasn’t around,” he said.
Dropping in and out of three schools over the next few years, Lamani had many difficulties with learning. Eventually he went to Amasango in Grade 7, where he finally got a chance to catch up.
“They gave us everything,” he said. “Whatever we needed to succeed.” This included food, rent, study help and support for his later high school studies.
In Grade 9, Lamani left the classrooms of Amasango to find his long-lost father. “I went to King William’s Town, and my grandmother told me where he was staying. So I went to East London to find him.”
He didn’t find the answers he was looking for.
“It was a bad time. I soon realised that I had to come back to Grahamstown,” he said.
Desperate, he went to Daily Bread Charitable Trust, which organised transport for him to go back to Amasango. However, this return still posed its difficulties. After failing to obtain his Matric at Nombulelo High School, he redoubled his efforts at the Gadra Matric School, performing very well in history and succeeding in finally getting his matric certificate.
Without Amasango Career School and principal Jane Bradshaw, he said he wouldn’t have been who he is today. “She was a mother. She cared about all of us,” he said. “Whenever she went away there was fighting and chaos. She keeps them straight. Whoever is coming in next [after her retirement]has big shoes to fill. They need to be a teacher, a role model, and as strong as Mama Jane,” he smiled.
Even though he passed his matric Lamani sadly lacked the necessary points to go to university. “There were also problems with language,” he said. “It’s a huge barrier.”
University or not, Lamani hasn't been discouraged. “You have to work hard to succeed, no matter what,” he said and his perseverance has brought out his strong entrepreneurial spirit. In a few weeks he saved some money and started hawking goods like belts and hats, eventually making enough money to expand his business to selling food. “It’s going very well,” he said with a grin.
Inspired by the struggles he has faced, Lamani wants to dedicate more of his time helping struggling youths like himself and has become a project leader working with the Inkululeko project run by US volunteers Matt Kellen and Jason Torreano, his old English tutor. “Jason introduced me to Matt and told me about the project,” he said. He was immediately struck by the urge to work with them. “There is a need for this kind of work. We all play a vital role in helping children be better.”