Nothing is ever free of charge; everything comes at a price, even freedom. Nelson Mandela paid his price, he paved the way for many opportunities, he taught nobility, forgiveness, reconciliation and many other valuable lessons, but all of them came at a price as well.
South Africa is a democratic country, it has many world class cities, such impressive infrastructure, virtually free education and access to healthcare facilities amongst other things, but it still has very unique circumstances that affect its citizens as individuals. As a country we have done well, but as citizens of the country we still have some challenges, how we have overlooked the economical emancipation of those that were affected by apartheid directly is despicable.
I want to talk about the life of an average South African child. The born-frees, the challenges they go through because of apartheid.
Being born in the post-apartheid era has its own challenges, the fact that people think since it is over everything has just gone back to “normal”, overlooking the post-traumatic stress effects on parents of born frees, and how that influences how they raise their children. Our parents are not financially stable, they are products of Johannesburg mines that were designed to ensure that apartheid victims never make enough money to acquire independence from the system, so our parents are products of earning just enough to rent a room, buy few groceries, a few beers to relieve the pressure, cigarettes to imitate the white man, be broke in no time and be forced to go back to the mines. With such salaries, they could not afford luxuries such as counseling on family planning, and as a result, they have more kids than they know what to do with. They had to choose which kids go to school since they couldn’t afford to take them all, and as a result the importance of education has been greatly underestimated, and that attitude of our parents has also rubbed off into us. The quality of education is underestimated at crèche’ level, and it becomes a serious challenge for kids to perform well when there were no educational programs practiced before school, in most of our crèches the kids sing, dance, eat soft porridge and take naps until they’re parents return from work to fetch them.
This lack of education’s quality extends to primary school as well, because the teachers are victims of apartheid as well. Back then there were not too many career opportunities for oppressed races, and teaching was the only option for many. Was it a bad thing to have many teachers of our kind? It would not, if all were passionate about the profession. Some of our teachers have no passion at all, they took it because it was the only thing at their disposal at that time, and now they feel they have done it for too long to change to anything else. As a result, the quality of teaching is very low because teachers lack the passion for teaching and interacting with young people. The challenge further extends to those who are truly passionate, there are no proper teaching and learning facilities, the books are outdated, the labs are short of some crucial experimental chemicals and test tubes, the computer labs have outdated PC’s with outdated programming, so even if you’re a really passionate teacher you are not able to carry your job out properly because of the lack of these crucial resources.
So by the time a child gets to his teenage years he is already confused as ever. School is no heaven and home is no different. The frustrated parents who work day and night but just never seem to make ends meet become more and more distant by the day, because they have to choose between stroking you and providing a plate of food for you. Whilst they are too busy working hard to keep the family ship afloat, they neglect to give attention to their children, so now kids are forced to rely on other “sources” for that stroking. And once a child gets to that point he gets even more withdrawn from his family, and they never seem to notices because they are too caught up as well. So teenagers begin forming communities of their own at this point, with other teenagers with similar problems, and the danger is; who are as clueless as they are. In such groups it is often that the need for stroking, love and attention is simply substituted with substance abuse. The delusion that they are not in this world no more, they have forgotten everyone and everything that comes with it is enough to fool them to believe they are in paradise, until the drugs get the better of them unfortunately. Sex has the same effect as drugs. It is intimacy. A completely different feeling, pleasurable, so pleasurable that the mind fools you to believing that it makes up for your father missing all of your soccer matches, it also becomes dangerous at a certain level, it is an addiction. Some teenagers even go as far as having sexual relations with their teachers, pastors, community leaders, and any other parental figure you can think of, that can fill in that blank of parental stroking really.
The late and post teenage years often have shocking results, such numerous criminal records of youngsters who did not even matriculate. The pain is too much to bear. And when it takes over it gets the most of everyone. It gets our daughters as well, who often end up with a fair number of children made out of marriage and most often with different men. Another delicate matter is employment. It is no child’s play to get a job in this day and time as it is, so it is even worse when you have 3 criminal records at 23, a fair time behind bars for violating your parole, and to top it all you dropped out of school after you stabbed a fellow classmate in the 8th grade. It is also not easy to get employed when you have 3 kids from 3 different men at 19, one of them was your 9th grade class teacher who skipped town after you were knocked up because your mom wanted to have him arrested, the second is the cop who was handling your “rape” case and the 3rd is that young men who just went back to prison for violating his parole. You also did not get a chance to finish school as well, because from books to house chores to caring for your kids it was almost impossible to cope, your daddy wasn’t talking to you at all and your mama wasn’t helping you as well because ‘apparently you got yourself in this mess’, and before you could decide whether to quit school or not, you just got knocked up again.
The cycle just never stops. Kids born from these circumstances most probably will go through the same patterns as their parents, and in the end they will end-up being like their parents and when they one day have kids of their own, they will have too have to work as hard as their parents to raise their kids whom will probably end up feeling like their parents once felt and inevitably going through the same cycle their parents did.
We will still continue to prosper as a country, we will continue to be ranked amongst the world’s best countries, we will still be referred to as the descendants of Tata Mandela, we will raise more infrastructure, but until we find a way to transform lives of individuals, our efforts as a country will continue to be just a sham to those affected.
This is life in the modern South Africa.