Esona (10) is the first black swimmer to represent South Africa on the international stage
Today is women’s day in South Africa, where the country reflects on the power of women and their significant role in the fight against Apartheid. Since the dawn of democracy, the government has been trying to provide a better life for all, but the inequalities continue to be the country’s Achilles heel.
Previously disadvantaged communities are left alone to figure out ways to improve their quality of life. Schools are a true reflection of the society that we have become as a nation. Township schools do not enjoy the same facilities as their urban counterparts in sports. Most parents from previously disadvantaged communities always dream of giving their children better chances in life through education, art, sport, and recreation.
It means that children are sent to expensive schools because schools in townships and rural areas do not have the means nor the infrastructure to deliver those better possibilities.
South Africa as a sporting nation has enjoyed successes on world stages, where the sport has seemingly unified the people and given us a picture of what we could be as a united nation. However, some sporting codes have drawn us back to inequality, where there is no representation of the rainbow nation.
There hasn’t been a black athlete representing South Africa at the pools in Olympics, Commonwealth games, or any other major competitions.
Esona Sekeleni (10) has raised her hand in becoming the first black swimmer to represent South Africa on an international stage. This Grade 4 learner at Cambridge Primary School will represent South Africa at the World Biathle Championships in Machico, Madeira Island, Portugal.
“I started swimming when I was six years old and became a Biathlete because my swimming coach told me to partake in a race last year,” said Esona, speaking to our Editor. Most of our readers may be hearing the word “Biathlon” for the first time, “Biathle – run, swim and run at one venue, Biathlon – run at one venue and swim at another venue,” explained Esona.
At only ten years old, she’s already on course to make history “I have been doing these sports for two years now, and now I get to experience a different level of competing, and it will be my first international trip,” excited Esona said.
The sport is not cheap, and the trip will come at a high cost because it is not for Esona only, she has a technical team that she will be traveling with, and her mom needs to be there. As per the above opening insert to this interview, these sports previously belonged to a selected few, and for any previously disadvantaged child, breaking into the sport will come at a high cost. Esona is no different, her mother is a single parent who has done all she can to give her daughter a better shot at becoming the first black Olympiad at the pools.
The African saying “It takes a village to raise a child” has to come to life here.
We have seen the Minister of Sports Nathi Mthethwa coming under severe criticism for celebrating the Banyana Banyana African Championship win while he did nothing to support the girls. Let us not also do the same with Esona, where we celebrate her future accomplishments and claim her as “our daughter” while we fold our arms and watch her struggle through her career. Esona and her team need all the help they can get including financial assistance for this trip and future trips, “I have a candystick account where people can donate.”
This women’s day reminds us of how important our mothers are, Sandisiwe Sekeleni is a single parent who plays the biggest role in Esona’s endeavors, “My mom is my biggest motivator because she is the best mom in the world. She supports me in everything I do and works so hard to make everything happen for me,” proud future Olympiad told Tag My School Magazine.
This trip will bring about an unforgettable experience beyond the pool; what is Esona looking forward to the most? “I am looking forward to staying on the Island and making new friends.”
If you are familiar with rap music, then you would know the song titled: Dear Mama by the great Tupac Shakur, I asked her to talk to you directly, and she went Tupac on us:
“Esona is a 10-year-old girl who is not just good in sport but academics too. I am also an active Sunday school member at Trinity Methodist Church. It has been a long road for my mom and me because she is a single parent; she has worked extremely hard to get me to where I am now. Having to pay for everything on her own, and making sure that she is at every race and tournament. Please help my mom to get me to Portugal because she cannot do it alone.” Concluded the talented Grade 4 learner.
Some businesses and organizations have landed a hand, but this little girl needs both short-term and long-term sponsors.
“As Esona’s mom, I am very proud of her great achievements. She has done exceptionally well not only in sports but in academics as well; she is in the top 10 in her grade. This weekend she had a gala on the 5th and 6th of August and she came 2nd in 200m breaststroke and 3rd 200m freestyle. Esona is the only black girl in the Biathle World Champions, and that is something any parent should be proud of. The saddest thing is that we get no financial assistance from the federation or government, and I must fund the trip and pay for everything. I am raising a hand and asking for help in assisting my daughter. As her mother, it is my beautiful duty to help make her dream a reality. Thank you, Tag My School Magazine, for the opportunity to let us share our story.”
Anyone willing to be part of this journey can call Sandisiwe Sekeleni (Mom) to 0823463194