Saturday, January 23, 2010

townships, bo-kaap, and greenpoint stadium

We went to see the townships where we have the option of working at yesterday. First we visited Manenburg Primary School (grades one through seven). This school is located in the coloured township of Manenburg. Students who work there will assist with classes, love the children, and maybe even fill in for teachers from time to time. I think there are generally about 40 or 50 kids to a class, with one teacher. Until recently Manenburg was the gang capital of the world (I think another nearby township passed it up). Gangsterism is apparently present even in the youngest of school children, as they try to impress the older children who have become part of gangs.

Next, we visited a secondary school (grades eight through twelve) in Khayelitsha, a black township. Apparently the school is notorious for poor outcomes on standardized testing in twelfth grade. The students struggle with literacy and numeracy even at that level, and don’t have the adequate context or motivation to improve these skills. Khayelitsha was more shocking to me in terms of housing than Manenburg was. We only really saw the residential areas of the townships as we passed them on the road, but Manenburg’s “houses” appeared significantly more livable than those in Khayelitsha. In Khayelitsha, I saw houses that were smaller than my bathroom, that were made out of packing crates, or cardboard, or metal scraps. I found it odd seeing the children walk home from school in their school uniforms. Something struck me as odd as I watched them walking around in their relatively nice uniforms… and then going home to those tiny shacks. Like many aspects of Cape Town, and South Africa as a hole, I was struck by the seeming contradiction, the juxtaposition of progress and apartheid influence. A suggested option for working at the secondary school is to work with a group of the teenage boys at the school related to the subject of “manhood” and what it means to be a man. Many boys in the South African, and particularly township, culture have skewed perspectives on gender roles, based on what they see, hear, are modeled and told. Often teenage boys in Khayelitsha develop the perception that impregnating a woman is a sign of manhood, or being involved in a gang or violent behavior, or drug use and sexual activity. I think that kind of program would be incredible, and I’m going to strongly encourage one of the guys in our service-learning program to take that on. I don’t think I, as a woman, would have the same impact. Men and woman can only progress together, and I think this can be forgotten when focusing on the progress of women’s status and opportunities.

We then went to the Equal Education headquarters. Equal Education is a NGO that deals with humanitarian rights related to access to education. I was so impressed by the organization, and how effective their activism has proven already. It seemed like an incredible and dedication group of people. Check out their website:

Last, we went to a place that helps children that are HIV positive or have full on AIDS. The aim is to teach these kids how to properly care for themselves and take their medicine, but it also teaches basic hygiene habits and living skills, and helps these kids have the opportunity to just act like kids. Sometime they go on outings, or camping, or just play together in a safe and open environment. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I’m pretty sure it’s related to the Ubuntu Institute.

We were not able to visit St. Michael's, where I'm pretty certain I want to work. St. Michael's is a place for sexually abused girls ages 12-18. I have been talking to another service-learning about possible projects we could work on at St. Michaels, but I will post further on that later, when I get it figured out.

At night we went to eat at Marco’s African Restaurant and had a delicious meal. I even tried oxtail! (I have decided to eat meat when it means having a new experience… as in, I’ll skip the chicken nuggets, but try oxtail and a Capetonian chicken samosa). Then, we (the service-learning group) went to Long Street, the famous center of Cape Town nightlife, and checked out the atmosphere. It was pretty crazy, very fun. Long Street is aptly named…. It looks like endless, and is completely lined with bars and clubs on both sides of the street.

Today, we went to visit the community of Bo Kaap. Bo Kaap is the Muslim area of Cape Town. We were shown around by a very kind woman named Bilqees. Apparently the people are called Malays, and are descendants of various nations (Malaysia and Indonesia seemed to be common), but almost all share the religion of Islam. I believe 80-90% of the community is Muslim. I was able to go inside the Mosque, which was my first experience inside any Mosque and I had to cover myself with a robe and take of my shoes. It was beautiful, and has a very rich history, like everything else in Cape Town. Bo Kapp is easily distinguishable by its bright, colorful buildings. For lunch, we ate at the house of a Malay woman that lives in Bo Kaap. She prepared an incredible meal of chicken curry and vegetable curry, rice, some kind of salsa-ish dish, chicken samosas, potato pudding, and a sort of doughnut that was about ten times better than any doughnut I’ve ever had. Cape Town curry is different from Indian curry. It is less spicy, and has a bit of sweetness to it. So far, Cape Town cuisine has proven an incredible mix of different influences. I ate to maximum capacity, and more.

Ronel and Thandie speaking with a sweet Malay woman who told us some about living in Apartheid South Africa as a Muslim

Then, we went to Greenpoint Stadium, the stadium that was just constructed for the World Cup. The entire CIEE program (so, the 164 Arts & Sciences students went too) were given tickets to the soccer match that opened the stadium. The game was sold out, and it was a very excited, upbeat environment. I think South Africans just get more excited, in general, that Americans. Two smaller teams, Santos and Ajax, played and it wasn’t a very exciting game. But, I loved just being there. Apparently they are in the same league, and so are really allies and it was a "friendly game," in which the teams don't really go at 100% because the game doesn't really matter and they don't want anyone getting injured. There was not a moment during the game that you could not hear the constant racket of vuvuzelas (

The whole service-learning group with Angela and Thandie and our sign reading "Bafana Bafana World Cup 2010" (Bafana Bafana is the South African soccer team)


I also learned a new South African word today. Ayoba! From what I was told, it doesn’t really have a specific meaning, and you can use it for just about anything, as long as it’s something good. It has become kind of a catchphrase of the World Cup, so I’ll probably start seeing and hearing it everywhere. Ayoba!

Note: My camera battery died right when we got to Bo Kaap, so my pictures of Bo Kaap and the soccer game were taken by another service-learner, Erin... so I can't take credit for the pictures of Bo Kaap and the game!


  1. As I read your post about the attitudes of young males, it sounds close to what I have seen in our country among many young men. And, yes, we have really missed the boat by thinking women were going to keep moving ahead without men. The two genders won't ever be able to do without each other, so the problems of men are always felt by women; the problems of women are always felt by men. But, because there is still a power imbalance, the problems of men are felt by women in a particularly brutal way - moreso in areas where equal rights are still a dream more than a reality.

    And, as I talked with some of my church members about South Africa, it was strange to be using "coloured." I noticed that none of my members used it. The term is offensive, and was part of the "Jim Crow South," which was our version of aparteid.

    Tell everyone greetings from East Tennessee. Our family and our church are interested in Capetown, and what is going on there.

  2. Sounds like you are having fun!!! Love the pictures! Continue to keep us updated :)