The 1990s in South Africa is recognised as a period of huge political change. For alumni like Lee Farred, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) was the perfect environment to dissect what this transition of power would mean for all South Africans.
Lee enrolled for a BA degree at UWC in 1993, majoring in Sociology and History. He grew up in Mitchell’s Plain, but when he was a teenager, his family moved in order to shield him from the influence of gangs.
“When I started studying, our country was transitioning to a democracy, so my peers and I were ready to embrace the new South Africa and the atmosphere at UWC was electric. We were the first group of students that would get to experience the new dispensation,” says Farred.
One of the highlights of his time at UWC, he says, was the lectures, because it was a space to critically engage with issues that the country was grappling with.
“Our lecturers were just amazing and all of them would go on to become influential people,” recalls Lee.
His father, William Arthur Farred, who founded a trade union for health workers in 1967 called the Public Servants League, believed that instead of protesting, the youth needed to educate themselves in preparation for a liberated South Africa. It's a belief that Farred holds too.
“My experience at UWC shaped me into who I am today because our parents knew that a tertiary education would equip us for the job market as well as social justice,” says Farred.
He worked at the Western Cape Department of Health for 20 years, occupying roles in programme development and training.
Lee left his position due to a toxic work environment, which ultimately led him to pursue his passion. In 2019, he was approached by the executive members of the Community Development Education Foundation of South Africa (CDEFSA), a Non Profit Company that focuses on community and early childhood development, to take up the director role at the NPC.
Initially, CDEFSA focused on the education of high school learners. However, in collaborating with partners, the organisation learned that social problems that affect children’s ability to concentrate in class and ultimately excel in school start in the early childhood development phase.
“When I took over as director, I wanted to take the NPC’s vision and connect it to the realities of communities so that we could focus our attention where we could make the most impact,” explains Lee.
With Lee at the helm, CDEFSA managed to secure a donor that provided the funds to erect a building on a piece of land that the organisation owns in the Asanda Village township in the Western Cape, however these plans have been put on hold due to issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Making this dream a reality for the community, remains a key focus for Farred and CDEFSA.
The impact of COVID-19 affected the organisation’s projects, in particular, the extent to which it could remodel its premises. The pandemic also called for a consolidation of efforts, with CDEFSA focusing on providing food relief to the Nomzamo community.
Reflecting on his life’s journey thus far, Lee says: “My time at UWC was special because everyday was a new experience and I embraced it. Those experiences prepared me for my future”.