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Last Day in Johannesberg

Friday, June 26, 2009

Today we visited the Apartheid Museum which documents South Africa's struggle over the better part of the second half of the 20th century to overcome colonial racial segregation. Under Apartheid the people of South Africa were segregated by color into the categories of white (mostly foreigners, colonial rulers and Japanese), colored (Asians and lighter colored locals) or black (most Africans) with whites recieving higher jobs and luxurious living accommodations while coloreds receiving fewer privileges and blacks fewer yet. Since the coloreds made up only a small percentage of the population and the whites even less, the museum primarily tells the stories of the black people. The black people were often forced to take very low class jobs, the worst being those of mineworkers. Mineworkers worked allday in the hot, dusty underground and were given the cheapest food and housing available so that the white owners could make the highest possible profits off the gold, diamonds etc. Further Black children had little opportunity for improving these conditions for they lacked proper academic facilities. Schools were hot and difficult to concentrate in, did not have desks or chairs, had as few as 3 teachers for 700 or so students and only taught basic skills not including those necessary for higher professions. In their desperation many children become Tsotsis or youths who turn to crime rather than work for they feel it is the only way to attain any substantial amount of money and also allows them to take away the Whites' wealth. Even students who tried to assert themselves without turning to such alternatives often suffered. In the case of the Orlando West marches and several marches involving shoolgoing children, the protesters were fired upon by colonial police despite their non-violent methods. It was only after the president of the time died of a stroke, Nelson Mandela was freed, the ban on the African National Congress was lifted and several other incidents were peace talks even allowed and by 1991 Apartheid was lifted. South Africa still suffers from the aftermath of Apartheid but has progressed significantly in the past 18 years. As we left the museum we were allowed to choose from a variety of colored sticks each representing a set of traits Nelson Mandela prized, and set the sticks in holders outside the museum and in doing so represented the unification of the values that helped end Apartheid in South Africa. After the museum we visited Nelson Mandela's previous home. In it we saw several awards Mandela has received over his lifetime and the conditions under which his family lived. The house also had several reminders of the Apartheid era such as bullet holes along the walls from attacks against him and his family. Last but definitely not least we visited the Masibambisane center which houses and feeds schoolgoing children whose parents are unable to take care of them or have died primarily as a result of AIDs. As a result, their caretakers need only provide a bed for them to sleep in every night. The kids were all very nice and were interested in our lives and we played several games together; it was a lot of fun. With that we concluded our adventures in Johannesberg.


Scout said...

there's a lot of misinformation about AIDS going around especially in Africa. one of the "remedies" is to get together with a new person -- precisely the wrong thing to do!

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 12 days
When June 2nd - 13th, 2009
Focus Wildlife Research/Conservation
Political History