Challenge to Change

Before I came to South Africa, my ideas of the places, people, and culture were far different from reality. My growing curiosity began the moment I was accepted to participate in the “Call of South Africa” program this winter term. I desired to firsthand learn more about the lingering affects of apartheid on people of all ages in South Africa.

Our visit to the township of Khayelitsha was eye opening. Driving to Khayelitsha, we passed big houses and developed areas. However, just seconds away people were living in homes made of tin roofs. This contrast was difficult to comprehend. I had seen pictures of townships and learned about the disparities through research, but none of this prepared me for what I was about to see. This place is where I met some of the most inspiring and loving individuals. As we arrived, people welcomed us with warm smiles and gratitude. The process of preparing and serving the bag lunches to the children in this township was an unforgettable experience. The simple act of providing a basic necessity was humbling. Why was I given the advantage of never having to worry about my next meal, but these children were not given this privilege? This day led me to reflect on the variation in the meaning of privilege and the role in plays in daily life.

During our visit to Hermanes, I had the opportunity to speak with the director of a local preschool. Her positivity was contagious as she was providing a strong foundation of education for the children. She mentioned that the local children in Cape Town are not required to attend school after the eighth grade. I then began to realize the lack of value South Africa places on educating the youth. In the United States, children are given the opportunity for a minimum of education through high school. It is a privilege to receive an education and it is often something people take for granted.

  In a passage written by Martin Haberman about the connection between education and poverty, is discussed in “Pedagogy of Poverty Versus Good Teaching.” Haberman states, “Education will be seriously reformed only after we move it from a matter of “importance” to a matter of “life and death,” both for society and the individuals themselves (Haberman, 1991, p. 10). The role of society serves of great importance in emphasizing this issue and to help spread awareness to make a change.

In class, we discussed the term “dance of the lemons,” which is the process of less qualified teachers leaving schools to work at other schools. It is a cycle that creates a poor education system for children specifically in South Africa. I enjoyed reading a class article called, “Preparing Socially Conscious Teachers” by Omiuota Nelly Ukpokodu because it touched on the reasons this issue continues to occur. Ukpokodu says, “the academic failure of urban students and the achievement gap will remain problematic and will continue to prepare teachers who will and cannot successfully teach in urban schools.”

During our time in Cape Town, we shared a breakfast with elderly members of the community. This was one of my favorite experiences. The smiles beamed from their faces as we served them their food and talked to them about their lives. One woman was not eating with the group, so I brought her a plate of the eggs, meat, and toast to her room. As I delivered her food, I looked around at the small space she called her home. The sidewalks around the space in which the elderly individuals lived was very dangerous. Holes, uneven pavement, and piles of rocks filled the path. However, none of this stopped this woman from smiling. She was grateful for the present moment and I was inspired by her resilience. As I left and said my goodbyes, the woman looked me in the eyes and said, “I will be praying for you.” The genuine tone in her voice confirmed the sincerity of her statement. She has been confined to the post-apartheid cycle that thousands of people in South Africa face. How is she able to spread joy and optimism in an environment that is filled with oppression?

As a psychology minor, I have found the issues of post-apartheid South Africa relatable to my studies. The lingering effects are seen in the elderly and yet similarly seen in the youth. The effects of poverty can be detrimental to a child’s development. According to research, poverty is shown to impair a child’s ability to learn, leading to lower academic achievements, less education, and low-income careers. Overall, this can indirectly affect an individual’s mental health.

My time in South Africa has taught me that the lingering affects of the Bantu Education still create separation today. Even though the laws are not institutionalized, they still remain effective a cultural way. Nelson Mandela said, “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” It is important for people to recognize the direct and indirect problems that rise due to poverty. Educating the youth is something that I feel is most important after visiting local primary schools with 50+ students in a class with only one teacher.

All of these places I have visited have portrayed a vicious cycle. The lack of education, confinement to specific townships, and poverty lead to limited career opportunities due to the lack of governmental support. My understanding of South Africa has grown through the people I have met and places I have seen throughout this incredible journey.

A shocking statistic at Maropeng said, “Southern Africa has the highest proportion of people living on less than $1 per day. About 40% of the region’s 190-million people live in extreme poverty” (Hamann, Patel, Pressend). What do you think South Africa should do to decrease these numbers and aid those living under these conditions due to the post-apartheid cycle?


Haberman, Martin, and From Phi Delta Kappan.”Good Teaching.” Phi Delta Kappan 73 (1991):  10

Ralph Hamann, Zarina Patel & Michelle Pressend, Environment, July/August 2002

Ukpokodu, Omiunota Nelly. “Preparing socially conscious teachers: A social justice-oriented teacher education.” Multicultural Education 15.1 (2007): 8.

– Posted by: Jordan Snetman


Unexpected Lessons in Langa

While many experiences here in South Africa have impacted me, our class’s visit to Langa Township has proved most resonant as we enter our last few days of this adventure. Prior to entering the township, I held many reservations about touring Langa. I feared that our visit would disrupt the lives and routines of its residents and that they would find our tour of their home to be a burden. Beyond this, on a more shallow level, I feared for my own safety and the safety of my peers and personal belongings. While we discussed many of these hesitations as a class, a simple conversation could not prepare me for the lessons I would learn in Langa.

To be honest, it was extremely hard to face the level of poverty at which most of Langa’s residents live. Although I knew places like Langa existed, it was easy to keep the images far from the forefront of my mind as I had never been to a township or witnessed its deficiency firsthand. In hindsight, my time prior to experiencing Langa is reminiscent of James Mathews’ political poetry. He states in Poems From a Prison Cell that, “we live unseen from one another, each aware of the other’s plight” (16). In the same vein, I knew of but did not fully understand the severe poverty of Langa and other informal settlements.

Langa poses as a stark juxtaposition to the million rand houses at Seapoint and the hotel that accommodated my classmates and I in Cape Town. The shacks are small and barren and the hostiles are overcrowded and missing important infrastructure. One woman we spoke with on our tour of the hostiles informed us that she lived in a room with her three adult children as well as another family of four. When we entered the room, my heart dropped. It was about half the size of my own bedroom at home. She pointed us to the corner of the room where the two families had set up a makeshift kitchen and lifted the covers of her bed to reveal boxes of tattered clothing. She did all of this with a smile and thanked us for visiting. In the common room of the hostile, children danced around us, tried on our sunglasses, and coaxed us into a game of catch. Every time we dropped the stuffed animal being used for a ball, they burst out in fits of laughter.

It took this moment of lightness inside the room those children would grow, learn, and play in to realize that despite the challenges touring Langa presented, it was important that I see these people and understand their plight. I remember recalling Mamphela Ramphele’s A Bed Called Home while in the hostile. While the children were playing in the same way the kids I babysit at home might and the mother held a welcoming smile on her face throughout the conversation, I knew that their living arrangement had the potential to result in extreme relationship struggles between family members. In chapter 6 of A Bed Called Home, Ramphele explores the effects living in a hostile has on families. While some advantages arise as families are forcibly bonded to one another and, “the father cannot turn a deaf ear to a crying baby right next to him,” most of her analysis focuses on the detriments of coexisting in such close quarters. She points out that, “The lack of private space for families limits their capacity to function as a coherent unit in day-to-day social interaction,” and notes that, “Children are not guaranteed automatic rights to the limited physical space available,” which may result in estrangement from the dominant father figures as well as, “tantrums, pestering, ridicule, and adoption of the sick role” (Ramphele 17, 18).

What was once a township wrecked with poverty became a little boy who would never feel like he had enough space for himself and a mother who raises her children not knowing if they will find enough work to fill their stomachs and cover their heads. Their safety wasn’t guaranteed. Their opportunities for mobility were slim if not nonexistent. And still they smiled. They played catch. The melancholic generality I had once assigned to those living in poverty faltered during my time in Langa as I met people who held their own stories and individuality.

I carried these faces and lessons with me as our class joined Call to Serve in an effort feed the children and elderly a few days after our visit to Langa. I reminded myself that it was more than just a line of hungry children and elderly who waited for us outside of the bus. It was individuals who deserved respect and intentionality. In another life, a different lottery of luck, it could have been me outside the bus and them inside, and although I will never be able to fully understand the extent of their resilience, I can treat them as more than a hungry mouth. I can listen, engage, and encourage the powerful spirit I have seen in South Africans since the start of this trip.

My short time in Langa made me a better and more aware servant leader, and while it was hard to meet those people, walk those streets, and leave without offering anything in return, I know that if we hadn’t visited Langa, I never would have taken time to reflect on the way I viewed poverty and those who live under its crippling hand. I take solace in the fact that the lessons Langa taught me can be used to better serve the people we will be partnering with in Johannesburg and will continue to shape me as I head back to Elon. I hope in the wake of reading this blog, some of you will take time to reflect on the space you allocate to questioning your own views of wide-scale issues whether it be poverty as addressed in this blog or something different but equally as demanding such as sexism or racism. I encourage you to shrink one of these matters to the unique face of someone who is affected by its authority and challenge you to reconstruct or at least question your current perspective.

Works Cited

Matthews, James. Poems From a Prison Cell. Athlone, South Africa: Realities, 2001. Print.

Ramphele, Mamphela. “Social Relations.” A Bed Called Home. Cape Town: D. Philip, 1993.   68-88. Print.

Posted by Maggie Lowman



I felt uncomfortable upon arriving to the first township tour. I wasn’t sure how to act, or what I should do or say. As an American, we just don’t have anything to which are similar to these communities which lead to me searching for something similar, and in the US that would be a poor neighborhood, a ghetto of some sort. But that’s not at all what a township really is and because of that, so few even try to experience the beauty that lies within a township. I was confused as to why the residents were so welcoming and willing to open their homes to complete strangers. In their world where they have to little they were such happy people.

Townships are holdovers from apartheid, when non-whites were forced to live in large communities, such as townships. All townships around South Africa evolved over time, many of them turning into small cities. Unlike a real city though, townships lack key aspects of infrastructure. Things such as sewage, universal running water, and well-organized electrical grids are lacking in these large areas. Townships are evolving and many, like Soweto, have distinct sections home to middle-class individuals as well as the very poor. Our tour guide mentioned Kliptown was the area of Soweto for the millionaires and billionaires. On the other hand, there is most definitely poverty in a township, but that poverty doesn’t define it.

The contracts created from racially motivated land tenure policies were officially abolished in 1994, following the democratic election that brought the African National Congress (ANC) party to power, but there still exists a class barrier that follows ever since the apartheid era. This class barrier is clearly shown in both major cities Cape Town and Johannesburg. In 2007, according to a report by the Johannesburg-based consultancy FutureFact, 55 percent of black adults lived in townships, and more than 40 percent of these were members of the working class. As white only areas have opened to other races, the biggest post-apartheid population shift has been the movement of black middle-class residents from townships to formerly all-white suburbs, enabled in part by growth in the black middle-class (Shapiro). And yet the report found that 81 percent of residents living in townships planned to continue living there. It may be that the new generation growing up in townships have adopted the communities as the new norm. Many can’t afford to leave. A township we recently visited was Soweto. Soweto occupies only 10 percent of land in Johannesburg but has over 40 percent of the cities population (Mafika). Soweto is transforming into an important hub of commerce with political power. We drove by one of the many large malls in the township that allow the residents to buy almost anything within walking distance. According to author Rachel Bray in her book “Growing up in the new South Africa: Childhood and adolescence in post-apartheid Cape Town.”, the government has built more than a million new housing units, they keep expanding the townships by building houses on the lands that are on the edges of township. This creates challenges for residents when accessing jobs, transportation, education and commercial goods (Bray). The gap that physically exists between the once former white cities and the former black townships remain evident. What used to be a racial divide has turned into a class divide.

As my time comes to an end here in South Africa I am most grateful for the experience of going to each township. There is an awkward beauty I found from the time I first arrived to when I left the final township. After being welcomed into homes that are smaller than most of our garages, it’s awkward to then pile back into a van to be whisked away to a five-star dinner. I believe that it is okay for the experience to feel awkward at times. And to be unsure as to how to react or even what to say and do. This country is unique in so many ways. By being able to see the clear division in class by living conditions, South Africa is honest. By encouraging tourists to visit townships, I believe that they were so inviting because they want to show the people of the world that they should not feel pity or even embarrassment, but instead see the beautiful country a little bit better. I believe this course has really taught me what South Africa is about. It has helped me understand the people, their past, how they’re adjusting and where they’re going.






Bray. “Growing up in the new South Africa: Childhood and adolescence in post-apartheid Cape Town.” (2010).

Mafika. “South Africa’s Population.” Brand South Africa. N.p., 05 Nov. 2012. Web. 24    Jan. 2017.

Shapiro. “The New Urban Geography: The Changing Face of Suburbia.” FutureFact (n.d.): n. pag. 13 May 2007. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

The White Part of the Apartheid Struggle

Written by Jane Baffi

During oppressive struggles and environments a few key leaders emerge to organize and lead the masses in uprising to create change. During Apartheid in South Africa, there were many people standing behind Nelson Mandela in the fight for freedom. Most interestingly to me, were the whites standing behind him fighting for basic human rights. These men and women helped fight apartheid, all across the world, from South Africa to London to the United States, even though they did not have much to gain from the end of apartheid. Despite that, they were still fighting as if their lives depended on it. My interest in our class discussions in the fall prep class, our class discussions here in South Africa, and our visit to the Lillieleaf Farm in Johannesburg focused on the work these whites did for blacks in South Africa and why they were compelled to help.

Lillieleaf Farm was a secret meeting place for the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1960s. There were three main white people or operations, discussed at Lillieleaf Farm that significantly helped the ANC and blacks in South Africa. They were the Goldreich Family, Denis Goldberg, and The African Hinterland Operations.

Lillieleaf Farm was purchased using ANC funds but Arthur and Hazel Goldreich, and their children, provided the needed “acceptable family façade in the affluent white community of Rivonia” so the real purpose of the farm was not discovered by the police (Lillieleaf Museum 2017). Mandela said ‘Arthur’s presence provided a safe cover for our activities…his politics were unknown to the police and he had never been questioned or raided” (Lillieleaf Museum 2017).

Among the ANC activists that met at Lillieleaf farm was Denis Goldberg, a white man. He was a civil engineer from Cape Town, “a member of the South African Communist Party, and helped established the Congress of Democrats in 1953” (Lillieleaf Museum). After being arrested at Lillieleaf Farm during the raid of 1963, he was sent to Pretoria Central Prison, where white political prisoners were sent, for 22 years. After his release he continued to work for the ANC in London. In addition, he was one of the voices of Radio Freedom, an underground radio broadcast for the ANC.

My favorite part of the Lillieleaf Farm Museum was learning about the unsuspecting tourists that helped the ANC during apartheid. The “Africa Hinterland – African Overland Expeditions” were safari expeditions for tourists created by Rodney Wilkinson and the ANC designed to create a diversion so the ANC could smuggle weapons into South Africa. Six white European drivers from the United Kingdom and Holland were chosen to drive these safari trucks. The tourists were unaware of the arms and explosives located in hidden compartments of the Bedford trucks and “between 1986 and 1993 the operation made over 40 trips into South Africa, transporting about 500 tourists. On each trip the truck carried approximately a ton of AK-47s, pistols, limpet mines, grenades, explosives, and ammunition” (Lillieleaf Museum 2017). The police never knew of the weapons.

In our fall prep course, we discussed in detail the divestment movement of university students in the United States to help end apartheid. The basis of the divestment movement was for higher education establishments in the United States to pull their funds and essentially boycott South Africa. In Jackson’s (1898) dissertation at The Ohio State University titled The Student Divestment Movement: Anti-Apartheid Activism on U.S. College and University Campuses, states that although divestment protests started off week in the spring on 1985, by the organized anti-apartheid protest day on in April 1986, “more than one hundred campuses across the country” participated, and “more than 2,000 activist had been arrested to-date” (Jackson 1989 pg 10). The anti-apartheid divestment movement worked in the United States and was a significant movement that helped blacks in South Africa. I would love to be a student in the 1980s to better understand why these students, thousands of miles away, protested and rallied together to help end an oppressive environment, which they were not a part of or directly connected to.

In our class discussions here in South Africa we talked about how the Jews and Muslims helped in the anti-apartheid struggle even though they were given white privileges. We based our discussion on Feld’s (2010) article American Jews and the Struggle Over Apartheid. We discussed in this class what might inspire a Jew to help a black South African noting, at the time only 2% of the white population in South Africa was Jewish but 60% of the white anti-apartheid activists in South Africa were Jewish (Feld 2010). We discussed the similarities that the Jewish people went through during the Holocaust and how the empathy they feel towards black South Africans might factor into why they decided to help fight against apartheid.

In conclusion, the white anti-apartheid activists around the world, whether that be the white ANC activists involved in Lillieleaf Farms, the white university students protesting in the United States, or the Jewish people in South Africa fighting against apartheid, have interested me the most as I have continued to learn about apartheid. Why would they want to help when they are not involved or they are benefiting from the laws of apartheid? These questions can only be answered by the people that were there but as I return to the United States, I wonder how the struggles and oppression blacks, and other minority groups, feel in the United States today could be changed by whites stepping up and fighting back against the government.

Works Cited

Herd, M. (2010). American Jews and the Struggle Over Apartheid. Babson Faculty   Research Fund Working Papers. Paper 65.

Jackson, J. (2010). The Student Divestment Movement: Anti-Apartheid Activism On U.S. College and University Campuses. The Ohio State University.