For as long as I have known Thabo he has always had some sort of big dream he was working towards. There was a time when he was thinking about becoming a lawyer(because he wanted to bring justice to the world), then there was the time he wanted to become a Doctor(so he could bring healthcare to those who need it the most), but if there is one thing that is always constant about his ‘big dreams’ it is the fact that all of these dreams are about fixing the world that he live in.
I have known Thabo since we were 7 years old and I first met him after he moved to his grandmother’s house shortly after his mother’s funeral. The first time I spoke to him was during our first day of school at Masedi Primary School during assembly. Like him, I was standing alone during assembly and after a great number of rehearsals in my head and mental play-outs of our forthcoming conversation I managed to come up with enough courage to walk up to him and greet him. ‘Hi,’ I said and with a warm and inviting smile he said hi back. ‘My name is Kebelo,’ I said, ‘we live in the same street’. ‘I’m Thabo,’ he responded, ‘I saw you yesterday when we moved in’, and we have been friends ever since.
The years I have known him have been filled with joy and laughter. People have never understood why I chose to be friends with him because academically I was doing better than him and they believed that he would “drag me down with him”. The main reason I have been, and still am, friends with him is because till today I have never met anyone who is as interesting and wise as him. Though his academics do not reflect this fact, Thabo is an innovative thinker and always has a futuristic and innovative way of solving problems. His mind works like that of no one I have ever met before and that has always intrigued me about him.
Growing up together Thabo was always the one with the inquisitive mind in our two man group, he always questioned everything and looking back its not hard to realize that our education system was not, and is still not, designed for someone like that. I remember once in our Grade 10 Biology(now known as Life Science) class we were learning about evolution, the teacher was still busy explaining to us how people ‘evolved from monkeys’ when Thabo raised his hand and asked, ‘if people evolved from monkeys, why do we still have monkeys around?, or are they also going to evolve into humans?’ that made the teacher very angry and she kicked him out.
During one of our trips to the library I asked him why he, being so smart, never got good marks in class and he said he didn’t understand. ‘What do you mean you don’t understand,’ I asked him, ‘you read so many books, aren’t you learning anything from them?’ ‘You don’t understand,’ he said, ‘I’m not saying I don’t understand the work, I actually understand most of it. My problem is that I read a lot of books that have different explanations and definitions about the things we are taught in class, and I don’t understand why we should take what the teacher is saying as being right when there are so many people out there who say he/she is wrong.’ I brushed it off as him just “being rebellious” and never interrogated the issue further, which is something I today regret not doing.
Today we are collecting our Grade 12 results and I, having forgotten over half of the things I wrote about during the exams, managed to become one of the learners with the highest average mark(with an average mark of 89%), while Thabo, who is probably the smartest person I know, only managed to scrape through with an average mark of 60%. I overheard some of the teachers saying that they knew that he would not get good marks because “he was too much of a dreamer,” which made me understand why they always called him Vuyo, and that he “never focused on his work.” But to me my friend didn’t fail because he was a ‘dreamer’, he failed because the system failed him.
Today marks the beginning of a very tough journey for Thabo. This is because from now on he will not be judged based on his ability to come up with innovative ways to solve everyday problems, and he will not be judged based on his ever growing knowledge on issues ranging from Politics to Science to Religion and even Finance. From today on he will be judged based on a piece of paper. A piece of paper that was apparently made to show how well a person’s ability to think is but does this without ever testing them based on their personal capabilities but testing them based on their ability to memorize and regurgitate formulas and theories.
Thabo still dreams about changing the world and making a difference in his community irrespective of his Grade 12 results. It’s a pity that the system and society that he is passionate about helping and developing has already labeled him incompetent before he has even began working.