Koketso Kotsane is an educational activist on a mission to uplift and inspire – even if it means putting aside his natural talents and inclinations.
Koketso Kotsane is unapologetic about his the path he is carving for himself. The gifted musician – he plays piano, guitar, drums and composes music – has eschewed following his own dreams to instead focus on ensuring others can follow theirs.
“I am studying Mining Engineering because I took it upon myself to be a sacrifice just to see my family uplifted from the utter poverty they are in; my granny used to knock door to door to ask for food just so that I could live to dream another day,” asserts the young man raised on the dusty streets of Slovoville deep in the heart of Winterveld, Pretoria.
Koketso is acutely aware of the limitations poverty places on ambition and possibility – and is intent on ensuring others can find their way out of the cycle. “I try to go back to my high school (Abel Motshoane High school in Slovoville) to motivate the learners when I can. Earlier this year someone stopped me on campus and said: ‘Bruh I know you, I heard you speak at the assembly last year and I was inspired,’ then he continued to thank me and embrace me. These are the moments I live for, serving hope to one black child at a time,” maintains Koketso.
Ironically, he says, the book that most inspires him is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. “It’s ironic because the protagonist is following his lifelong dream and I am here being a foundation to my future linages’ success,” he says pragmatically. It’s a calling Koketso feels deeply, and that extends beyond ensuring his family and future generations’ wellbeing, to serving his entire community.
Source of hope
“As one of the few from my kasi who made it this far, I feel a personal responsibility to be a source of hope. I wake up every day because I feel that if I fall, what will happen to that one kid who heard me give a speech and chose to believe in themself because they got hope from looking up to me?” he questions.
Koketso credits the Moshal Program for giving him the confidence to inspire others. “The scholarship gave me a chance to hope, an ability to dream and a window to realize my dreams. It took all the weight of the world from my shoulders and gave me the confidence to inspire others who look up to me,” he says.
The University of Pretoria student says his inspiration and motivation is derived from the women he grew up with. “My grandmother, mother, little sister and high school teacher Mam Mashigo are my ‘ride or die’ superwomen,” he asserts.
His ambition is to ensure his mother will never again weep with worry, and that his little sister has a better chance at life. “I want to give her a chance to be a child and not have to grow up too soon like I did,” he says. He also hopes to make his former teacher proud. “Ma’am Mashigo took one look at me back in grade 10, saw the brilliance in me and chose to believe in me before I believed in myself. She contributed to the person I am today,” adds Koketso.
These women, and their hopes for him, are symbolised by the bag he carries every day, says Koketso. “I never leave home without my bag. I carry it everywhere I go because it serves a reminder of the people I carry on my back: those who look up to me, those who believed in my potential enough to take food out of their mouth to feed me and those who depend of my success to be uplifted from poverty,” says Koketso.
This determined young man has two great sources of solace and stress relief: When he’s not making music, he immerses himself in educational documentaries. “I love documentaries and watch a lot of educational videos because I believe school will only educate me so far, but self-education is the major key. I try watching programs that will equip me with wisdom because what you grace your eyes with determines how your mentality is shaped,” believes Koketso.
Education, for Koketso, is the greatest tool one can have. Given a choice, he would dedicate his life to his first career choice, and become a teacher. He’s not letting go of that dream, by ensuring that he motivates the youth from his former school and community. The message he’d most like to share, says Koketso, is: “Don’t forget to believe in others just as those who saw potential in you chose to believe in you.”