By Patronnela Mazhindu

“Fear of difference is fear of life itself”- Mary Parker Follet
Many people live in fear of the unknown we never know what change will bring so we tend to block
any new thing that comes our way. Could it be that we are fighting off the prosperity of a nation?
I am one who has been accustomed to change. I could say that throughout the years I have learnt
that to become a better version of yourself you have to be willing to change and learn to welcome
I am a Zimbabwean girl who moved to South Africa at the age of 10. The biggest change I ever had to
experience. Imagine leaving behind the comfort of your home, your friends and everything you have
known all your life to start a new adventure in not a different city but to a totally different country. It
was exciting until I got here. Everything had changed. The language barrier hit me hard. Switching
the language of instruction at school was hard. I became very withdrawn not only because of school
but also because of the fact that I had no friends and no one to talk too.
Being the new child at school makes you prune to bullying and always being the butt of the joke.
That is how some people deal with difference by trying to isolate me. I then took a decision to just
be myself, dorky and intelligent and that just made my life miserable. When I got my first report card
of the grade I was very disheartened. I was so used to getting straight A’s that even at the age of 11
failing a subject made me feel like a bigger loser than I already was. It took me a whole year to finally
be partially accepted by the other children in my class and I made a few friends. I looked forward to
going to school in the morning wellknowing that I got people to exchange dialogue with when I was
at school.
The 5th grade was a great year for me I finally mastered isiXhosa which boosted my self-esteem but
raffled the feathers of the girl who was the top learner at that time. She could not accept that a
foreign girl had taken hr shine. She became very hostile and made sure that everyone would turn on
me and there I was again back to square 1.
I then realized that of the two years that I had been with the learners at my school I had always had
to prove to them that I was good enough. I always had to compromise on what I wanted to please
them. Then it hit me, I was trying too hard to be one of them and I was giving up everything that
defined me. I became more like them and less like myself. I changed myself thinking that I was the
problem. I traded my uniqueness to become one of them and I lost everything that was left of my
innocence. I decided that I did not neem them. I stopped trying to fit in and started to stand out and
that made me happy. I taught myself that me being different was not wrong but it was just
something the children at school were not ready to accept and I accepted that and moved on.
Redefining myself was the best decision I ever took. I stopped worrying about the things I could not
change and started worrying more about my academics. That change got me academic recognition
that I deserved. I was so afraid that not having friends would make my primary school years
miserable but it was actually the opposite the people who were supposed to make my life fun were
the ones who made it a living hell. I can say that looking back I am happy with the choice I made to
just be a loner that way I got myself self-assurance and peace.
High school was much easier for me I was more mature and I was a better version of myself. I had a
motto that drove me throughout my schooling years I have always told myself that “you cannot
expect a rainbow without a little rain” there are always going to be bad experiences but in every
story there is a silver lining. I might have had a very bad primary school experience but high school
was amazing. I have made friends who are more like family than just friends.
For the 7 years that I have been here I have had to teach myself to grow in an environment that was
a bit hostile and not welcoming but I also had to learn that just because one person was mean to me
it does not mean that everyone are bad people. I also came to see that the same people who
mistreated me in primary school have become my friends because people do crazy things when they
are young and when they grow up they change and that change follows remorse and regret.
Humans waste so much time wallowing in the fear of the unknown. They fear change more than
they fear death. I find that very alarming. We live 75% of our lives thinking of what people will think
if we change of if we choose to not follow a trend. The “what ifs” and the “I wish I could have…”
thoughts become the outcome. I choose to accept change because I have learnt that without change
nothing big ever happens.
The acts of xenophobia and homophobia are not to be taken lightly. We shy away from these topics
even though we know that these are the topics we should be bringing to the table. School is
supposed to be a safe second home but with the acts of bullying people never feel safe at school. It
is time that people start engaging to bring about the change that we need. I know that with
teamwork we can work this out and I know this could be the start to bring about the difference that
we really need.

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