TSOGA 00:08:42

Target Audience

Youth and adults
Learners and teachers

Key Issues

Stigmatisation and discrimination
Care and support
Youth and HIV
Rape and HIV
Living positively
Advocacy and activism

Film Outline

A Soweto school made headlines after 70% of their students were reported to have tested HIV+. Ignorance and fear became the agents for discrimination. Years later, Joyce, an ex-learner shares her experiences of being raped as a young girl and suffering discrimination after testing HIV positive. Having overcome the challenges posed by her HIV status, she provides a source of guidance and encouragement.

Questions For Discussion

  • What is the message of this film?
  • Are HIV-positive schoolgoers discriminated against?
  • How can we prevent HIV positive learners from dropping out of school?
  • What is Joyce’s message to young people?
  • What do the youth request in their letter to the president?
  • The students care for and support their classmate. How can we care for and support our peers who are living with HIV/AIDS?


Tsoga, which means ‘wake up’, deals specifically with the high incidence of HIV in South African schools and the discrimination that HIV-positive pupils experience. Made by students, it is a compelling plea for tolerance and acceptance.

The film cuts between scenes of a woman called Joyce talking directly to camera about her experience of life as an HIV-positive person and black and white enactments of ‘Joyce’ as a school girl, bearing the brunt of her secret and experiencing rejection at school.

The HIV statistics in South African schools are horrific. Joyce tells us how she was raped in 1994 but that it took her a full year before she got up the courage to disclose to her family the fact that she had been infected with HIV. As Joyce likes to cook, they were particularly worried about catching the virus from food. But Joyce educated her family about HIV and she has been accepted by them.

Flashing back to the past with images of a school girl waking up in a sweat from a bad dream, getting ready and walking to school, Joyce informs us of the discrimination that HIV-positive pupils have to face. She explains the tendency to take the blame on oneself and to feel responsible, when in fact, “you don’t apply for HIV; it happens to anybody.” In the kitchen, filling in a form, the school girl falters at questions dealing with her state of health and runs out. We see her walking towards a car with pupils in it. But the car pulls off as she gets close, leaving her on the side of the road.

Joyce talks about the negative attitudes of many teachers who refuse to waste their time preparing their students for careers when, according to them, they are all going to die anyway. As a result of this lack of compassion and encouragement many pupils with HIV either fail or simply drop out. Joyce was one of these.

Despite her experience, Joyce is able to give a positive and encouraging message to the youth.

In a flashback sequence ‘Joyce’ and a group of friends are seen caring for a sick boy as he lies under the covers. ‘Joyce’ is writing a letter to the President on behalf of the youth of South Africa. She points out that the disease gets more attention than the sufferers. She says that the resulting rejection, alienation and lack of faith and trust are more dangerous than the virus itself.

As the pupils bathe their sick friend’s feet, the letter continues. It implores the President to address the needs of those infected. They should be encouraged to follow careers and become leaders. The sick school boy signs the letter in a very shaky hand.

We cut back to Joyce as an adult sitting in the sunshine, looking healthy and content. She says she still enjoys sex but always uses a condom. She asks everyone to do the same. 

She concludes with an upbeat message: “If you’ve got dreams, make sure you fulfill them.”


Production Company       

Newtown Film and TV School    


Sechaba Ramotoai