State Of The Community
Human life takes part in communities. It is also recognized that an individual does not just live in one community, but in many. The family environment; the work place; one’s residential suburb; one’s religious order, and academic circles are just some of the communities in which one can participate at any given point in time. These individualized communities are connected by intricate social, political, and economic webs which combine to create the world in which we live. Communities, as a whole, are influenced by two factors: one’s degree of participation in that community and, in contrast, one’s inactivity in the same community. The more people participate in a community, the greater the exchange of dialogue and ideas; the less people participate the stronger the status quo becomes. It can thus be argued that communities represent the sum total of actions and inactions of each member found in the community.
Inactivity is a negative contribution—by not participating in a community, one denies the community of unique and personal information that could, for example, help it to solve a simple or complex problem. Inaction, therefore, permits the status quo to remain. In order to facilitate positive community growth, each individual is encouraged to participate in communal life in any way they can by bringing their individual life experiences and social resources to bear on challenges the community may be facing. Each community faces a variety of problems—in order to successfully navigate these, each person in a community is called upon to utilize their different abilities in order to find a positive solution.
These insights into the need for individual participation in communal life were clearly revealed in our journey to discover the inaugural Bosele Scholar. Our cross-country journey took us from Randfontein to Welkom, and ultimately to Modjidjieskloof, in Limpopo, where we met the candidate who would become the inaugural scholar.
The journey was filled with various challenges and encouraging experiences. For example, we experienced the frustration of missed appointments and the simple pleasure of receiving a hearty meals from of the families we visited to assess each candidate’s abilities. We realized, throughout the home visitation process, how each community had shaped the individual candidates.
The final decision on the Bosele Foundation’s inaugural scholar was based on each candidate’s individual ability; their perceived potential; their display of their willingness to learn; and, ultimately, the trustee’s belief about which candidate benefit the most from being temporarily removed from their community and transferred to a boarding school community and, more importantly, the Bosele Foundation’s networks.
The home visitation process highlighted one of the most important factors that hinder people from participating in their communities: there is a general perception that is no material incentive for them to do so. This, however, is a diminished view to have since a healthier, cleaner, better educated, and more equal society is beneficial to all members. In other circumstances, it was recognized that people were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems they faced and came to believe that they could not make a meaningful difference to their communities. This, too, is untrue since the cumulative effect of “small” contributions is long-term widespread change. The realization that many people in their communities were inactive as a result of constant demoralization and the absence of material reward strengthened our belief in the Bosele Foundation’s mission: to create high-impact individuals who are able to create and foster positive change within their communities.
It also brought home the old adage that “example is not a method of teaching, it’s the only way to teach.” The search for the inaugural Bosele Scholar left us with the realization in each community, in order to bring about meaningful positive change, an individual should ask one important question: “What can I do to improve the situation?”
- By Dr. Oatile Phakathi, Chairperson of the Bosele Foundation.