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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 15 Feb 2012

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

MapToday has been special.

We spent part of the morning at Isikhokelo Primary School, a school of 1163 pupils aged five to thirteen in the township of Khayelitsha. This town ship was built to house the mixed race population known as the coloureds.
The visit was the culmination of a very interesting multicultural tour.
We were met at the door by the principal, a lady, who showed us into the computer room. There were about forty computers, old ones. The pupils were working on a phonics programme like we use at home, except this one was being used for much older children! The glee when they got the answer right was just the same as any children anywhere in the world.
The library/ resource centre at first looked well stocked, but then you remember how many children had to use it..the lending system was computerised just the same as ours. However there were no whiteboards, laptops or other computers in the classrooms.
For most of the morning we were entertained by the choir and some boys playing xylophones. The young teacher was a joy to watch and was an inspiration to her children as she lead them through song and dance. They sang with gusto from the soul, finishing with their rendering of the national anthem. So of course we sang ours although not quite so tunefully!
We even had to join in with the dancing..
We left at the lunchtime bell, as grandparents ( there is a missing generation here) arrived with supplies carried on their heads ready to voluntarily cook the school meals.
What is so striking everywhere is how much education is valued and how hard people work at's the path to a better life.
Our tour had started three hours earlier with a walk to the Nobel Square next to the hotel, where stands four bronzes..Tutu, Mandela, Tutu, Lutwilho and De
Klerk. How revered these men are!
This morning was enlightening and about learning and understanding. The population is made up of 10 per cent whites, 80 per cent blacks and the rest non whites.
The first place we stopped at was Bo Kaap, these are the traditional homes of the Muslims. Here narrow fronted houses in bright colours open onto original cobbled streets.
When the Dutch first came, the sailors had their wicked way and enjoyed themselves with the women! Hence the mixed race was begun!
This caused ill feeling so when the Dutch needed work doing, they did not trust the black people. So they brought in slaves from Indonesia and Islam was introduced to South Africa. The government provided these houses in Bo Kaap
for them to live and the original houses still survive. When the slave trade was abolished the people retained their property. The
British government replaced the Dutch and the darkest years came after the British left in the 1950's, with the introduction of the Population Registration Act, which determined lifestyle according to the colour of the skin.
The people were reclassified and 600 White families found themselves categorised as coloured.
A simple apartheid test was applied. was called the pencil test.if a pencil stayed on the top of the head, when the head was tipped forward, then you were classified as black.
Salary scales for instance were : for the same job a white man could be paid ten rand, a coloured man..five rand, and a black man two rand...and so began bitterness and internal fights.
From here we drove to three very different districts.
1. District Six, a wasteland soon to be redeveloped. 60,000 people, marginally working class were forcibly removed from their homes which were demolished...all except for the churches. The people were rehoused in ghettoes 10/15 kms away -to remote areas -but the young men were allowed to stay in the city as they were needed for work.
The cleared area is a place of Remembrance. The government now have a scheme to rehouse 30000 of the descendants of the 60000, within two years a few at a time.
It was a troubling thought that our hotel was built on the rubble from these buildings.
It was this process of forceful removal of people which lead to the build up of the townships.
Many people migrated back to the cities to be near their menfolk, so without homes they used what they could to build shacks for cover.
2 the first shanty town we stopped at was for the black people at a place called Langa. The shacks had two rooms regardless of the number of peo ple in the family, one toilet and one water tap for four families.
We spent a few moments at memorials to those killed in the protests, our guide was at the children's protest when the first child was killed.
3. Khayelitsha was the next township visited. The houses here provided better amenities and so more division was created.
One of the residents walk us through the streets and then took us to his home, a two room place where one room was used as a shop. The corrugated roof had gaps and made the rooms very hot in the summer but very cold in the winter.
Down the street was the centre for retraining women into the workforce. There was a creche. The women sat cutting clothes into strips and balling them up for use in the looms inside the buildings. The Tapestries and rugs etc were beautiful. We also watched the ladies painting table cloths etc, the finished products are baked to seal in the paint.
There was also a clinic here for vaccinations etc, some of the women and children were stick thin and it did not take much guessing as to what was wrong with them.
The resilience of these people was amazing. They have a firm belief that a better life is on the way.. New estates are rehousing the people...for a better future..
Very humbling!