Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Township Tour

The view of Tweeling's township from the balcony at Refeng-Thabo.

South Africa has a very unique dynamic in the way that towns are set up. During apartheid, the towns themselves were reserved for white South Africans, black South Africans were restricted to what are called “townships” or “locations.” Mixed-race towns, like Sophiatown in Johannesburg, were cleared of black residents, who were relocated to the townships or to independent “Bantustans,” and bulldozed.

The idea was to keep black South Africans close enough to town to provide cheap labor, but far enough away that white South Africans could avoid black South Africans in any social situation in town.

As an added insult, the apartheid government enacted several different pass laws, requiring black South Africans to have a pass to be in an urban area or in the town. The only allowable reasons for being in town or in the city were for work or, for women, for the husband’s work. Black South Africans needed a pass to leave their township and to travel out of the established “homeland.”

Even tiny towns like Tweeling have a sizeable township. The town used to be completely white, with black South Africans not allowed to live in town. The town now is about half black and half white, with many black families owning and renting homes in town.
The township, on the other hand, is completely black and, for the most part, very poor. All of the students at Refeng-Thabo come from the township and these are photos of some of their homes.

These students of Kate's happened to be out in the township while we were taking pictures.

Refeng-Thabo's teachers are still on strike, so they have been out of school now for two weeks.

Tweeling’s township is now in the middle of the installation of a huge plumbing project that will provide sewer services to every house in the township. Currently, almost no houses in the township have indoor plumbing and none have sewer hook-ups. Most people get their water from a spigot in the yard, which they use for washing and cooking. Almost every home has an outdoor toilet that is either a pit or a bucket toilet. Washing is done, for the most part, with a bucket and a washcloth. Laundry is done in a basin and hung in the yard.

Kagiso Motale and Simphiwe Mohapi helped me to take these pictures of the houses in the Tweeling township. They explained to people why we were taking pictures, and most people were very glad that people in America would see their homes.

There are several nicer homes, like these, in the township. They are, however, very rare.

Difficult to see, but these are three of Kate's grade 10 and 11 history students.

The Rainbow clinic, where Andy works, is located at the edge of the township and serves mostly township residents. Nurses are included in the public servants' strike, but the clinic has remained open throughout the strike. Pressure from the nurses' union forced Lucy Mokoena, who runs the clinic, to close on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, but she is determined to keep the clinic open for as long as she is able, as it is the only free medical care in Tweeling and the only medical care that most of Tweeling's residents have access to.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"The Teachers are Toyi Toyi-ing Miss"

The first week that I was at Refeng-Thabo, the school’s union organizer told me that there will most likely be a teacher strike this year. There are several teacher unions in South Africa, but everyone at Refeng-Thabo is a member of SADTU (South Africa’s Democratic Teacher Union), which has been calling for a 12% raise. The government offered 6%, which the unions were obviously not pleased with, and started threatening a strike.

Two weeks ago Friday (May 25th) all union members walked out of Refeng-Thabo at 10am to attend a union rally. On Monday the 28th, most union members did not attend school to go to Bloemfontein for a union march. All that week, the unions members were on a “slow down,” which meant that they came to work, but they did their work very slowly, and would not agree to do any extra work that is not in their contracts.

On Tuesday, the first day of the “slow down,” the teachers were doing the toyi-toyi (which means “protest”) dance in the staff room and these girls (who were supposed to be in my 10th grade history class) saw them and started doing their own dances…

Friday, June 1, the real strike started, and when I showed up to school, there was noone there and the gates and the school were locked. I called the district and they told me to go home, so Andy and I drove the rental car to the beach.

Part of my contract with Fulbright is that I am not allowed to strike and that I will come to school every day during the strike. On Monday, June 4, two other teachers and our school’s librarian showed up. It has been the four of us, the principal, and the office staff all week. The unions are not backing down from their 12% demands and the government is not budging from its second offer of 6.5%, which (surprisingly?) the unions didn’t accept. I polled the teachers before the strike started and most thought that it would last 3 days, some thought it would be only one. Now, most are saying that they would be very surprised if the strike ends before the June vacation, with school only resuming in July.

The first few days I brought my computer and worked all day to get a lot done for 3rd quarter. I got bored the third day and Principal Radebe suggested that I teach the other teachers about the two brand new computers that we received from the district. When I offered to help set up and show them how to use the machines, they jumped out of their seats. (Booth-Fickett's donations bought the power strip, which was the only way that we could use both computers at the same time. The first day, we had to take turns, as there are 2 computers with brand-new printers, but only one plug to connect them to.)

We worked all day on computer basics and everyone wanted to stay late to finish what they were working on. Today Mme Mngomezulu, our new English teacher, has brought an exam that she is working on typing and is very proud of her achievement.

Our cleaner, Mme Nhlapo, is using a computer for the first time and cannot believe it. I printed these photos for them so that they could show their families, who were awestruck.

ABSA Cup Championship in Durban

Before the car was stolen, we were having an absolute blast at the ABSA Cup Championships in Durban. We left for Durban at 5am on Saturday and drove straight to the beach. All over Durban people were wearing their team’s colors, bright yellow for the Sundowns and Red for CapeTown’s Ajax.

The Sundowns are a very wealthy team and can buy the good players (SA’s Yankees). They were the heavy favorites to win, having already won the South African Professional Soccer League. Sundowns’ fans also outnumbered CapeTown’s fans 2 to 1. Being true Red Sox fans, we rooted for the underdog.

Danny and Thokozile Motale joined us for the drive and the match. They wore their own team colors, black and gray for the Orlando Pirates.

The crowd filled ABSA Stadium, one of the stadiums that will be used for the World Cup in 2010, and made an impressive racket. Soccer fans here like to show their support by blasting away at any kind of noisemaker.

This fan broke out some kind of car part for the match that he could wind up and make a “zoom zoom” sound.

More common is the “Vuvuzela,” kind of like a giant kudzu that makes a sound exactly like its name.

The match was an upset, with CapeTown winning 2 – 0. There was a different kind of “upset” outside the stadium, but all is going well on that front. The insurance company has been wonderful and everything is being taken care of.

AND the Red Sox are 9 games up (AND the Yankees are losing the AL East).