Day 27, Cape Town-Laura Ndukwana picked us up at 9 am sharp. She really doesn’t do tours anymore, but because Christina at Willamette Travel referred us she picked us up personally. Thank you, Christina! Christina has been a believer, encouraging Laura in her mission to help the children of the townships.
Laura is busy running her school for promising young children from the Gugulethu township. The government mandates schooling for all children through grade 12, but many black township parents don’t send their children to school. School starts at age 7, which is too late for many of the at risk kids. Laura’s school start’s children at age 4, hopefully before they have to many damaging experiences.
Collin takes care of most of the tours now. He is a delightful young man that speaks great English and has a very extensive vocabulary, all of which he obtained by watching television, especially his favorite James Bond. Collin was forced to leave school in the 11th grade to go to work. So, in order to improve himself, he would stand in front of the mirror and repeat the English he heard on TV until he mastered the language.
Collin toured us through the women’s prison in Langa township, which is the oldest of the townships around Cape Town. Langa township originally consisted entirely of men. One of Apartheid’s aims was to break up the black or African nuclear family and to control the number of blacks actually in Cape Town. The women were left in villages while the men left to find work in the township. The men were allowed to visit their families once a year for 3 weeks. This was usually at the end of December or the beginning of January, a tradition that is carried on today when black families visit their villages or take their families to the beach. Otherwise the only time married couples saw each other was when the wife could get a visitation permit, was in the township for medical treatment or if a kind employer accompanied them. The police raided the men’s quarters frequently to find women that were there illegally. They were then put in the women’s prison. The women would frequently be raped there. When the husband found out he would abandon them.
Collin then took us on a walking tour of Langa.
This is a hostel that housed the men that came to Langa for work. They were housed after registering and given 90 days to find employment. There were three men to a room. Today there are as many as three families to a room at 20 Rand/family.
One of the results of apartheid policy of tearing apart families, is that nuclear families with a mom and dad are still a rarity in the townships. The average income in the townships is 300 Rand/month. The equivalent of 18.56 US. This is what the government hands out per month, but only if you have a child. They will pay 300 rand per child, up to 3 children. Guess what this encourages? Most girls are mothers by 14 and have their 3 children by 19 years of age. There is child abuse, rape at the age of 5, and forced prostitution. Dad is not around and no one even asks who he is. There has been new housing built, the occupants have to pay 180 Rand/month for 5 years, then the house or apartment is deeded over to them. However, there are many people still living in temporary housing from 1994. There is no electricity, except what’s stolen from neighboring lines, no sewer or toilets and no running water.
Yup, that’s right, shipping containers. Broiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. And to top it off there are two families to a container.
I was mistaken in a previous blog, there are two million African refugees, not 200 million. Still, this has not helped the employment situation, although the refugees from Zimbabwe tend to be well educated. Laura, who has a university degree said, “that before Robert Mugabe went crazy, he made sure his people had an education.” There is a lot of resentment in the black community about jobs being taken by the refugees, but as Laura pointed out most of the blacks in the townships aren’t employable, because they don’t know how to do anything…no education. With 60% unemployment in just the Cape Town townships, which are home to about 2.2 million people, the government statistic of 24-35% unemployment is definitely questionable.
Here is a lady that is considered employed, even though she doesn’t pay taxes. Cooked sheep heads are sold to feed the local families. The yellow on the women’s face is a homemade sun screen. We walked past one of these enterprises, but I got this photo online, as I didn’t want to just start snapping away.
There is a more affluent area in each of the townships where nurses, teachers, police and other professions live. Even though these people make good money 15,000 to 50,000 Rand/month, they still feel a need to have more. So, in the case of the nurses, they take all the drugs from the hospital and make people pay them extra to get what they need.
Laura has had her share of tragedy. Over the past 8 years she has pulled her life together and found a new start with Glenn. They have been married now for just three months. Glenn is half Malay and half black. He and Laura have moved to a small Malay community very close to Gugulethu township. She has started a new school in her home, as the only way to get government assistance is to be in a permanent structure. Laura’s prior school was in a shack, these type of schools aren’t recognized officially, so are on their own financially unless they can find sponsors. Laura has been busy creating a classroom, kitchen, toilets, bathing facilities and garden for the children. Eventually she will turn her entire home over to the school. Her young German teacher, Benjamin, is free because he is fulfilling his country’s three month requirement of volunteer service after secondary school. This is supposed to help young people in Germany decide what they want to do before starting university. Laura has been working on publicity and is now working with politicians to be able to obtain government legitimacy.
Laura and Glenn, the newlyweds!
Fifth birthday party at school. This little boy has been praying for a birthday cake everyday for a month. He was so overwhelmed that he could hardly bring himself to blow out the candle.
The children get breakfast and lunch at school. Laura picks them up in the morning and takes them home in the afternoon. These meals would not necessarily be available to the children at home.
Benjamin, he lives with Glenn and Laura. They are expecting another volunteer from Switzerland shortly.
Glenn with their new puppy, watching the birthday festivities.