I was amazed at the sheer volume of courses available to me - and all affordable and within reach! The difference between the South African and British governments is that the latter wants its citizens to study and be the best they can be when it comes to education and supporting themselves and their families. Every council has an adult education centre where one can study anything from basic computer skills to street cleaning. Yes, street cleaning.
Apparently, cleaning streets is not just about sweeping rubbish into stormwater drains and then taking a nap on the freshly-cut grass. Nosiree. To be able to proudly call yourself a street cleaner in London, you need to be able to assess the area to be cleaned, know which cleaning products to use, know which litter needs to be segregated, know the proper procedures for emptying out bins and be able to identify problems and report them to the council. And I haven't even touched on health and safety procedures yet.
Becoming a taxi driver in London doesn't involve buying a licence and finding a people carrier that's in semi-working order. London's Black Cab drivers take great pride in their jobs (although you wouldn't say so judging from the amount of obscenities that are shouted from those particular vehicles). They often choose that career because their fathers and grandfathers were drivers. It's a generation thing. And it's not easy. Cabbies have to study for an average of two years before they can start carting passengers around. They need to be knowledgeable in London's 25 000 streets and know where all the tourist hotspots, hospitals and places of worship are; not to mention the best place to get a chicken burger at 3am.
I've come to realise that South Africans have it easy in the sense that they can pick up a hammer and call themselves a builder; yet they have it extremely tough because there is no support from the government. Further education institutions are mostly private, charging R3000 for a course I can do in London for R700. It seems almost criminal, really. Education should be free to everyone - and should be of a superior quality. If half the South Africans were trained to do their jobs properly from the start, perhaps half our problems would be solved.
All I know is that I hope to take full advantage of London's adult education system while I am lucky enough to be in a position to afford and appreciate it. First course: photography. Because I want to know how a camera really works and because my pride won't let me pick up a camera and call myself a photographer.