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How South African Students Built a Platform Responding to Social Injustices Amidst Covid-19

JUN 26, 2020 • 15 min read

In South Africa, a group of teenagers have collaborated remotely to build the website Ukuzibuza, which means “to ask oneself”. The group’s mission statement is one in which the platform becomes “a space for us all ... one which displays the variety of knowledge, passions, talents and ideas that we as a collective possess so abundantly.”

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Co-creator Sazi, says the site was built for high school students seeking a sense of productivity from home - particularly as people face isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The site currently has over 4,200 post views. Beyond the numbers, he says the platform has had a great impact. “The website has shared stories that have both moved and touched people, shedding light on vitally important current issues, but also given people confidence in publishing their own writing and finding their voices. I believe there’s something for every reader to find intriguing and exciting, I think the website has done that.”

Sazi, who we spoke to about the project, is joined by others who contribute thoughts and reflections on issues challenging youth today. He says, “*I wanted to create this platform where we could collect, share and challenge our thoughts and opinions and engage through them in a time where we can’t interact otherwise.”

Check out the website here.

*Read on to discover what inspired the project and how high school student Sazi, dreams of studying applied mathematics and economics in order to bridge the gap between the “so-called developed world and the developing world, and breakaway from our current notions of poverty and inequality”. He also shares advice on how to launch a project from a place of purpose and self-questioning: “what frustrates me or what breaks my heart?”

What first sparked your project idea? Are there additional projects / issues you are passionate about?

Over the course of the pandemic and the lockdown here I found myself at home and it felt as if my sense of purpose was getting away from me. It felt like I wasn’t moving anywhere and that I got in a sort of static state, where nothing was really happening for me. I imagined that so many other people my age must’ve been feeling the same way, and so I guess this feeling sparked my project idea. I wanted to do something that kept me interested, stimulated, creative and excited, and to have it do the same for anyone who might come across the website. I wanted to create this platform where we could collect, share and challenge our thoughts and opinions and engage through them in a time where we can’t interact otherwise. What I find especially great about this website is that it allows me to have a space where I can dive into all the issues that I’m passionate about and get insight into how other people grapple with them. Namely, at this time I’ve also been passionate about looking at ways for increasing community engagement, and helping people who aren’t able to help themselves in the midst of this pandemic - I’m currently working on another project started by one of my friends that’s finding ways to do this. I’ve also been reading more, both in literature and theatre/drama and engaging in discussions around societal issues.

More than anything, I’ve found inspiration from everything going on around me. I’ve been so proud to use this platform and watch other people my age use their platforms to shed light on issues that are important. The Black Lives Matter Movement, the crisis in Yemen and an outcry against gender-based violence in South Africa amongst so many other issues of social justice are in need of platforms right now, and in the hopes of inspiring positive change, I’ve given mine to them. As long as there is injustice, as long as people are being marginalised and even murdered, Ukuzibuza will continue to amplify these voices and advocate for solutions.

How did your initiative fit in with your high school workload? How did you balance your ECL project alongside your academics and other pursuits?

I found that my initiative actually complimented my high school workload. As a busy person, writing and curating gave me an avenue to escape from how pervasive school work can be, and for me to express things that I’m interested in and engage with other people. I started this initiative at a time where we were on school holidays, but now that we’re back I’ve been finding time in my days to write and that’s been really freeing for me. At times I did have to set this aside and prioritize school work, other projects and even keeping fit and staying involved in my sports, but I’m lucky in that I’ve worked with friends in this initiative, and amongst us we’ve kept it going. This website has been something that I wanted (and want) to do, and I never found that I was forcing myself to pay attention to it, it always happened naturally.

What obstacles have you faced and overcome in taking your project from an idea to its current stage?

It took me a while to get familiar with the website design to translate all the content into a functioning website, but with enough YouTube tutorials and help from friends we got there. I think taking all our diverse thinking and all our ideas into something that is concise and presentable got a bit overwhelming at the start, but I think it turned out great. We started fixating a lot on the small details and I think that allowed us to be proud of what we put out.

What resources and tools helped you to maximise the impact of your initiative?

Instagram has definitely been something that’s helped maximize the impact - we set up an instagram for the website but also promoted it through our own personal ones and also from other willing friends, and we did the same with Twitter. Creating networks of people who take interest and are willing to help promote has also been great, because each of them help spread the word and it goes out that much further. Something that has maximised the impact has been providing social commentary on things affecting our community and youth right now, and that has drawn in a lot of people who are interested in what’s going on with people our age. Movements like Black Lives Matter call upon us to collectively speak about issues and work toward positive change, and having our website provide a space for this has brought people to the website and I’m really grateful for that.

What valuable support and advice have you received from your Crimson ECL mentor, and any other role models in your life?

My Crimson ECL tutor, Amy, has been a great help in all of this. I initially pitched the idea to her when I was a bit sceptical and unsure and she assured me that it was worthwhile and set me on my way toward pursuing that. She has founded and run a project of her own and she gave me great logistical support in how to coordinate an initiative and dealing with people in doing so. I also reached out to ‘teacher’ figures who are experienced in published writing and friends of mine who write. I also spoke to my sister who’s currently in university, and all these people have helped me in my way to starting this by giving great advice.

What advice would you give to other students who are looking to make an impact and also, who have ambitions to study at a top-ranked university after high school?

The advice I would give is to do something that speaks to you and something that you’re genuinely interested in and moved by. It’s a lot easier to keep up your involvement in something when you want to. So, for anybody looking to make an impact, I would encourage them to firstly look inside themselves and answer introspective questions like “what frustrates me or what breaks my heart?” I would also encourage them to create something they can’t find in the world right now, and bring something new into the world. In saying that, it’s also perfectly valid to personalise already existing concepts and this can have a lot of good.

What goals and dreams do you have for your future beyond school?

Living in South Africa, I’ve found myself living in a reality, especially economically, that extremely few other people of colour are able to. In hopefully studying applied mathematics and economics, an objective of mine would be to find ways of bridging the gap between the so-called developed world and the developing world, and breakaway from our current notions of poverty and inequality. I would focus my attention on Africa but also areas like the middle east, and hopefully work through international organisations like the IMF and the World bank to alleviate disenfranchisement and tangibly improve people’s lives, especially those who form part of marginalised minority groups. I would also like to explore the ways in which what I study could impact social justice and inspire much needed change. Beyond all that, I’d love to just be able to affect positive change wherever I go and contribute to things that are meaningful and purposeful. I’d also like to write as much as I can and create as much as I can and leave parts of myself in the world that can have an impact on people's lives. I think beyond school I'd like to see my life change and fluctuate and leave an impact in many places.

Meet the collaborators on the project:


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Has this blog inspired any great ECL ideas you think might help your community? Feel free to check out our last blog post about what great projects and ECL ideas Crimson students have come up with during the coronavirus here, as well as our blog homepage for more great content.

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