THE CAPE FLATS, about 30 kms outside Cape Town in South Africa, is a sandy, urban wasteland. It was where people of colour evicted from the city centre in the 1970’s by the white apartheid government were forcibly moved.
Today the Cape Flats houses over 2 million people, and has inherited all the socio-economic ills of an inner-city ghetto. Young men idle on graffiti-ridden tenement corners. Unemployment is nearly 40%, alcohol and drug-addiction are widespread, crime is rife and gangs rule.
But one enthusiastic, never-say-die schoolteacher at Rocklands High School on the Cape Flats has chosen to rise above these socio-economic circumstances.
Irafaan Abrahams, himself a child of the “Flats” – and a community activist, radio broadcaster and sports fanatic – completed the New York Marathon last year to raise funds for schools in the area.
His initial idea was to explore ways of meeting expenses to build a sports hall at Rocklands High, but he realised that Rocklands High wasn’t the only school in Cape Town in need of extra resources.
This year Irafaan has set himself another challenge; to run the prestigious Chicago Marathon to raise funds in the same fashion as New York – local schools are given collection sheets with each kilometre of the marathon worth an affordable R5 (85 US cents).
However, this time Irafaan has taken inspiration from his father who is suffering from stomach cancer. The “Amabellie Belles”, a local woman’s cancer organisation, will be a beneficiary to the 2012 Chicago Marathon Million Rand Challenge as well as “Cancervive”.
Irafaan, who runs a Social Club to get youngsters involved in sports and social issues, feels that his entering the marathon raises awareness about the psychic healing that running can offer to youth, and how extra-mural activities such as running contribute to calming those with disciplinary problems.
Already 25 young kids have benefitted from what he calls a “legacy project”, and he says, that with the help of the local Ommiedraai Athletics Club, they’re off the streets and participating in cross-country events.
Irafaan, whose bubbly personality and determination have inspired thousands of students in his 19-year career as an educator, has won kudos from his colleagues and the South African Education Minister, and was featured on E-TV, a national channel, as an “educator making a difference”.
“I’M JUST AN ORDINARY TEACHER TRYING TO DO SOMETHING EXTRA-ORDINARY”-Irafaan Abrahams.