Meet Joel Joffe Scholar, Yolisa Piliso

Yolisa is a 4th year LLB scholar at the University of the Western Cape. He is really looking forward to his internship at Equal Education after graduating. The internship is part of his Joel Joffe scholarship.

It’s very important for me to be launching my career at Equal Education because of the work they are doing to advance education. I was born in the Eastern Cape, and did my schooling in the township of Langa. I have always been inspired by the law because of where I am from. If you study history, you will learn that Langa has a very rich history in the struggle against apartheid. Growing up there I feel the need to play my part.

Studying law for me was as natural as breathing air. The law is the only instrument before which we are equal, if you know how to use it. Growing up I had firsthand experience of this. My mother never had my late grandfather’s surname. After spending his entire life in the mines, he died a few short months after retiring. After he died, we were not able to claim from the mines for his death from TB, which was due to the working conditions there. The mines would not release his pension either.  My mother’s experience fighting in the courts was so complicated, and full of misleading and confusing information. She couldn’t tell if the people who were supposed to be helping her were really doing that. At the tail end of the process she found she could not get compensation because there was no evidence she was her father’s daughter.  That triggered me, I wanted so much to be able to help her. I told myself this is how I will help her, I will become a lawyer.

I tried to help a grandfather in my community who was struggling with the same kind of situation my mother was in recently. I knew I could help him with what I had learned from my mother’s struggles, and with a little bit of what I was learning in the law. I am not studying the law, so I can practice privately. I am studying social policy because there is no greater feeling than knowing you have been able to help a person.

The Joel Joffe Scholarship is currently open and will close October 5. Apply for study at the University of Fort Hare here and for the University of the Western Cape here.