There’s no recipe for success or a linear curve for personal growth. At songo.info each child enrolled in the programme has their natural ups and downs. Struggling with the normal teenage issues, or battling with a particular subject at school. Not infrequently the problems are more serious and sustained; the lure of drinking and drugs can be particularly strong in a community like Kayamandi.
songo.info’s teachers, sports coaches and programme manager, Sipho Madolo, do all they can to provide guidance and highlight the opportunities graduates of the programme can take up. Yet, every individual has to find their own way and take responsibility for themselves. Sometimes a harsh lesson is the shock needed to catalyse personal growth. This was the case for Tsholofelo Letlola.
“Tsholofelo was born here, in Kayamandi, 16 years ago and joined songo when he was 9 years old,” Madolo explained. “His parents are originally from Eastern Cape, but moved to Stellenbosch for work over two decades ago. Tragically his dad passed away few years ago and now he is being raised by a hardworking single mom. Tsholofelo’s situation is by no means unique in the songo programme and sometimes Ntlantla Nonkasa, Brand Stow and myself are forced by these situations to be surrogate fathers to those kids. It can be very tough.”
“He was introduced to BMX by the programme and he fell in love with it,” Madolo continued. “He doesn’t want to do MTB; all he wants to do is ride and race BMX. And he is riding really well. His strength as a BMX rider is jumping, so he enjoys riding and sharing his experience the other kids. If we build a new jump or do any changes at the track, he is always the first one to try it out. He is also always keen to build new stuff or get involved with the track maintenance.”
“Since his dad’s passing, he has had some significant disciplinary issues though, and we were very concerned about him. Tsholofelo was kicked out of school at beginning of 2022, because of his behaviour and failing multiple subjects. I had a couple of pep talks with him and it got to the point where I had to tell him that he needed to make a decision to change his behaviour or leave the songo programme. The prospect of having to give up BMX, which he loved, was, I think, a turning point for him.”
“Tsholofelo is back at school this year and I was so impressed with his first term school report,” Madolo praised. “He is doing really well on an off the bike. After ups and downs of the two previous years I’m seeing my younger self in him and that’s really rewarding. It’s stories like Tsholofelo’s which truly reminded me why songo exists!”
“We’ve identified a talent in coaching in him too and he’s really excelling at the BMX races, where he’s coaching the younger kids through mastering the various courses they race at. We’re trying to support him into that direction and with the help of the former songo.info BMX coach, Darryn Stow and his brother Brad, we have good work to do helping Tsholofelo reach his potential as a coach. It’s exciting to see a kid in the songo.info programme with such a bright future ahead of him, especially after the struggles he’s been through.”