"Generational poverty is something I continue to overcome each day", says Miss SA's 2nd princess, Boipelo Mabe
It's been a couple of weeks since the Alexandra born-and-bred beauty queen captured the hearts of South Africans during a question-and-answer session at the Miss SA 2017 pageant.
When asked about the greatest fear she had to overcome to get to the top five, she answered that it was generational poverty. Her answer seemed to resonate with a number of South Africans, as was evident among Twitter users discussing the weight of her comment.
Huffpost SA spoke to the 23-year-old about her realisation of fear of the pervasive problem of generational poverty. Here is what she had to say.
At what point in your life did you realise and acknowledge the fear of generational poverty?
It was in my latter high school years when the university bug hit and the major question and topic for discussion was "which university are you going to enrol?" As one of the top learners in my school, it was only expected that I would attend highly ranked universities or even go abroad with ease. However, the discussion at home was different. It wasn't about what or where I wanted to study, but it was about how there was no money to do anything regarding that. That's when the fear of helplessly sitting at home or passing time in street corners like the many youths in my community did, and not being able to pursue my studies, never mind my big dreams, gripped me. Of course, at the time I did not understand my situation as I call it now; generational poverty.
How did you come to terms with that realisation?
Firstly, by acknowledging that my parents themselves did not have the opportunity to go to university for the same reason, and worse they came from the inferior bantu education system, so we actually couldn't relate when talking about what university life meant or required beyond the fees. Secondly, I had to accept that all that my parents could give me was love and support and a little bit of guidance where they could, but what happened after that was solely up to me. Later, through various consultations, I came to learn about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which got me through my undergraduate studies.
Fastforward years later, you are accepted into a Masters' programme at Wits. Would you say university was a breakthrough point for you in terms of your fear of generational poverty?
My university experience really broadened my thinking regarding life, my situation at home, my potential and what I could possibly achieve. From there I promised myself that I do not want to have the look my parents had when they had to tell me they could not afford something that was literally going to change my life for the better. Today I represent the first generation of graduates in my family.
Beyond the pageant stage, what do you think needs to be done, to help stop the vicious cycle of generational poverty, especially amongst black families in South Africa (and hopefully create generational wealth)?
Drawing from my experience, generational poverty is more than just lacking financial resources to meet basic needs, but it is associated with other types of lack, the biggest being educational poverty. The lack of new knowledge, relevant and useful information can result in very narrow thinking and what I'd like to call 'optionless-living' which perpetuates itself through generations. To break the cycle, I believe it starts with education, which can be defined in varying ways, but for many South Africans this means access to quality education especially higher educational attainment. I believe that the more educated our people are, the more innovative, productive, driven and hopeful we will be. Education facilitates the kind of thinking, attitude and spirit necessary to develop our nation beyond poverty. So, the first step is to open up the doors to learning much wider and deeper.