Itumeleng Letoane is a true testament of second chances and trying again.
Raised in the Free State township of Thabong near Welkom, Itumeleng had, by all accounts, a happy childhood. Together with, his little brother and two of their cousins, he grew up steadily under the doting eye of his grandmother, Bulawa Elizabeth Letoane. He studied until Grade 10, after which he moved to Pretoria and began living with his aunt. Whilst in Pretoria, he faced his first struggle, trying to enrol in a school for Grade 11, but failing to get placed due to the school year already having started. After this, he managed to get enrolled into an Electrical Engineering course at Centurion Campus. It was here that his real struggles began.
“The freedom at a college changed me,” he recounts. “I stopped attending classes and started drinking and smoking cigarettes and dagga.” His new lifestyle had a negative effect on his grades, and he began failing his classes. “When I started failing my subjects and being unruly, my auntie sent me back to my grandma.” Back where he started, even under the watchful eye of his grandmother, Itumeleng’s behaviour got worse. “I joined gangs to satisfy my habits of smoking and drinking and became affiliated with a notorious local gang.¨ He became so entrenched in gang life he began to slip onto the wrong side of the law. He was arrested numerous times, but always managed to avoid a sentencing conviction. This was when Itumeleng finally decided to take his life into his own hands and change for the better. In 2007, he sat his grandmother down and announced he was moving to Jo´burg.
“What was left for me (in Thabong), was prison or being killed by a rival gang.” All his grandmother said to him was “Ke nako (it’s time)¨.
With her words in his heart, Itumeleng arrived in Johannesburg, determined to find a new life. At first, Itumeleng struggled, trying to eke out a living on the streets of Johannesburg. He came across an NGO that ran a job rehabilitation project and after spending some time doing odd jobs for them secured training and a job as a security guard. Still, he felt his life was not entirely in his control, and so he kept looking for more opportunities to better himself.
Whilst browsing the internet one day, he found an advertisement for Sparrow Schools, and by January 2015, he was enrolled in the Installation of Floor Covering course. That same year, he took a chance and registered his company; looking forward to the day he would complete the project and work for himself. He learnt to install all sorts of flooring, from laminates to artificial grass, and gained valuable experience at Combined Flooring.
Finally, he felt he had the skills needed to take the next step, and he began running his company, Ituway Flooring. The road has been long and hard, but Itumeleng feels he is finally where he is meant to be, in charge, focused, and with a bright future ahead of him. He has a word of advice for young matriculants, “Pray, get up, know what you want; seek it persistently until you win.”
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