Imagine the energy of Oprah, the leadership of Barack Obama and the poise of his wife Michelle. Wrap that all up in the form of a 12-year-old dynamo and you’ve got Tshepang Tiadi. We met Tshepang when we visited Ekukhanyisweni Primary School in Alexandra, South Africa. Tshepang is the chairperson of the Soul Buddyz Club at her school and she says she is going to change the world. (We believe her!)
Soul Buddyz began as a television program, produced by the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication, the largest social change communication project in Africa. Soul Buddyz chronicled four diverse kids in South Africa who helped each other confront issues they faced in their lives that are very typical of their community—HIV/AIDS, poverty, and alcoholism. The series was so wildly popular that kids across South Africa started forming their own Soul Buddyz Clubs to support one another and improve their own communities.
For Tshepang, helping others is not just her passion—it’s the way she is, and she can’t imagine any other way. “I was always helping, so I can’t stop helping. It runs in the blood to help,” says Tshepang with an infectious smile and confidence beyond her years. As chairperson of the club, Tshepang educates her peers about the effects of HIV/AIDS in their communities. She leads exercises on how to identify and combat the stigma of the disease. “Even if you have AIDS, I still love you,” she assures them, her arms open wide. She even led a clean-up of the local “Hostel”—a huge, falling-down housing project-like structure where families live in close slum conditions, very near her school. “It was so dirty, it was [a] disappointment,” says Tshepang. So, she and the other Soul Buddyz Club members got their hands dirty and worked together to beautify this eyesore.
It’s no small feat that Tshepang is the chairperson of her Soul Buddyz Club. This particular club is #1—a Diamond level club—because of the enormous progress they achieve in their community. That is a testament to Tshepang’s innate leadership skills and her natural intelligence—a quality that is also expressed in her impressive report card:
Arts and Culture (73 %) symbol B
Economic Management Sciences (96 %) Symbol A+
English First Additional Language (82 %) Symbol A
Life Orientation (70 %) Symbol B
Mathematics (53%) Symbol D
Natural Sciences (72%) Symbol B
Setswana Home Language (89%) Symbol A
Social Sciences (83 %) Symbol A
Technology (89%) Symbol A
With so many A’s and B’s on her report card, you’d think Tshepang would have her pick of high schools in the Fall. But in South Africa, going to a “Model C” school requires about $1500/year in tuition—a princely sum in a nation where a quarter of the people are unemployed and live on less than $1.25 per day. We’re hoping sharing Tshepang’s story will help her to achieve her goal: uplifting the whole world.