“We were not rich financially, but we were rich spiritually”

“We were not rich financially, but we were rich spiritually”

In de zomerweken plaatsen we iedere doordeweekse dag een portret van de campus op onze sociale media. Vandaag een langer gesprek met Xolani Nghona, promovendus bij het Tiburg Center of Entrepreneurship. Hij werkt aan zijn proefschrift over corporate entrepreneurship in de Zuid-Afrikaanse bouw-industrie. Deze week keert hij voor vier maanden terug naar Zuid-Afrika. Om veldonderzoek te doen, en zijn vrouw en twee kinderen weer te zien. Die heeft hij een jaar niet gezien.

“I came to Tilburg because it has a research center, and I wanted to study corporate entrepeneurship. I left South-Africa when I was 33. This is the first time I left Africa. There are differences between the Netherlands and South-Africa. You could call it a culture shock. One example, we don’t address an elderly person with their first name. Here, you can talk to them like they’re your peers. You can go like ‘Hi Neil!’. You also look them right in the face. In Africa, it carries respect if you bow your head. Not that we don’t look at them all the time, that would be strange.

People here are warm, but their warmth is different from South Africa. Your warmth is time bound. You will embrace people, but you have to remember people have other things to do. In South Africa, time is not a factor. There is no time limit.Growing up in South Africa, I experienced the late version of apartheid. I was not affected by it directly, but the people who brought me up were. They were deprived of many opportunities, which is why they felt the apartheid first hand. They were limited, our mothers, our grandmothers who brought us up. Growing up, this affects you. Then, in 1994, South Africa got liberated. A new democracy. It was interesting to see the transition from apartheid to a new country.

You could still feel the legacy of apartheid, even though it was not physically there. An example, schools in South Africa had an apartheidsystem called ‘bantu’ educated system. It was set up by apartheid, but it carries on as a legacy. Black people didn’t have the same educated system as white people, it was lower. Growing up in 1994, I experienced that. I’m a product of bantu education. Our government is now trying to make it equal. They are doing a good job, I must say.

“You really have to work hard, if you want to make it. That is the good side of the legacy of apartheid.”

Sports was another issue. I used to love cricket. But they only used one black person to represent all black people. When it dawned on me that this is the reality, I abandoned the game. After that, I put my effort in education. The good thing about being underprivileged is that we were taught by the people that brought us up to make sure we do our best. To make it in an underprivileged environment, it requires all the potential you have. You really have to work hard, if you want to make it. That is the good side of the legacy of apartheid. Most people of our age group never really got to look at it from that angle. They blame things that are against them, instead of really work hard.

I can summarize my upbringing which got me here in two things. One: The Bible. Two: Education. About my upbringing, I always say that we were not rich financially, but we were rich spiritually.”

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