This is an excerpt from the student-assigned blog for our Southern Africa semester, which can be found here.
Week One: Reflections on the Motherland
by Chiara White-Mink, Clark University & Anne-Claire Merkle-Scotland, Clark University
Apartheid ended 22 years ago when the first democratic elections were held in 1994, the same year I was born. For a nation that experienced so much horror in throughout apartheid these elections marked a new era of possibility and prosperity. That hope was shared throughout the world, when the message of a newly united nation travelled half-way across the world to the classrooms and schools I attended. However as residents and students in the United States, we should be well aware that change, especially social change, may take years and even generations to truly happen. Therefore, we were exposed to the realities of post-apartheid South Africa and the continuously growing economic challenges and disparities faced by South Africans, particularly the black citizens still facing severe effects from Apartheid.
Through visits to communities such as Orange Farm, located about an hour outside of Johannesburg, we saw and heard about the enormous problems within education and employment that poor communities are still facing even 22 years after the country was supposedly desegregated. With little resources offered from the government, schools continue to suffer from overcrowding and lack of materials, while adults and young adults are facing high rates of unemployment and lack of opportunities. Speaking to citizens, we learned how frustrated black South Africans are with the lack of economic mobility since the end of Apartheid. Still stuck in an oppressive and vicious cycle of poverty, many citizens have given up on expecting the government to create real effective change after so many years of what many view as false promises. One of our speakers Molefi Mataboge said it best when he stated “When politicians talk, we must listen not to what they’re saying, but to what they’re not saying.”