Man up and protect women, Siya Kolisi tells Cape Town high school pupils
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi was meant to deliver food at a Cape Town high school on Thursday, but ended up also nourishing the pupils' minds.
Kolisi - accompanied by fellow Rugby World Cup winners Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse, Blitzboks skipper Siviwe Soyizwapi, Springbok Women's Sevens captain Zintle Mpupha and SA Rugby management - visited Peak View Secondary School in Athlone. They distributed food parcels, “hygiene and stationery packs” and blankets alongside NGO Gift of the Givers.
Kolisi gave the animated grade 12 pupils a pep talk and also tackled the twin pandemics tormenting SA: Covid-19 and gender-based violence (GBV).
The pupils could not hide their excitement hosting the sports legends, although there was respectful silence and attentiveness when Kolisi spoke about GBV and the need for all “men and boys” to do “better” in protecting girls and women.
“Keep working hard through these tough times," Kolisi told the learners.
“I think a whole lot of us once sat where you are sitting now. We had to face a lot of challenges and I believe those challenges we faced have brought us where we are today.
“I know it has been a disruptive year. I am encouraged that you guys are here and still want to succeed and do better. Hopefully things will change in future. I really believe you guys are the ones who are going to change them, so keep on working hard.”
A candle was lit at the event and a moment of silence observed in memory of victims of the GBV.
Kolisi urged the boys to join the fight against the scourge.
“Young men and boys, let us not take this lightly. It’s time for us as young men to be better and fight for the girls and women who are struggling.
“It starts in places like here, at schools. I know the [Covid-19] pandemic is here, but gender-based violence was here before and it is still happening during the lockdown. If we don’t stand up and be better and fight, none of this will change. So stay positive and look after the ladies by just being better.
“As men, we should fight for the girls and women - because if they are not free, we are not free.”
Acknowledging the challenges he faced while growing up, Kolisi said the donation was a gesture of appreciation for the support the Springboks got from communities across the country during the 2019 World Cup.
“You guys supported us and we achieved what we wanted to achieve. This is our way of saying thank you. We want to ensure that other people don’t suffer what we suffered when we were young,” he said.
He also thanked teachers for the role they play in the pupils’ lives. “We thank the teachers for being here, encouraging you. A teacher made a difference in my life - he supported me.”
Acting principal Leticia Philander said the experience will live on in her pupils’ memories for a long time.
“It was just awesome. The kids are still in shock - we are not used to them being so quiet. We feel privileged that we have been chosen. I think this is going to motivate them to come to school. Some of them can’t come to school because they are hungry. We hope that this will help them complete their studies,” she said.
Badrealam Kazi, Gift of the Givers’ director for strategic relationships, said the NGO drilled a borehole at the school during the height of the drought in 2018.
“We have a partnership with the rugby board and the Springboks to raise awareness around hunger in the Covid-19 context,” he said.
“The aim today was to come to a school in Athlone, in Bridgetown in particular. This part of Athlone has produced people of stature. We wanted to highlight that to other South Africans - that a lack of opportunity does not mean a lack of intellect. Within a kilometre of the school lives one of South Africa’s most prolific poets, James Matthews.
“We gave the learners a bit of pep talk that you need to work hard to achieve things. They all come from families which are challenged. We gave them stationary, hygiene packs and some food. Food will go a long way in terms of easing things at home and ensure that they are in the right frame of mind to write matric.”