I would just like to make a few remarks regarding what I have seen in my few short days here in Cape Town, South Africa. Yesterday was the first time I was able to venture outside of the city center to explore another area of Cape Town that seems to go unnoticed. If you open your internet browser and type in “Cape Town, South Africa” you will see beautiful beaches with piercing bluish green waters beneath gorgeous mountains. However, just a short drive out of these areas and you enter into informal settlements that are suffering from severe poverty, malnutrition, lack of access to water, lack of education and other factors that result from their socioeconomic status. Yesterday, while driving to Sir Lowry’s Pass on the main highway, to the left and to the right of me were poverty stricken areas that do not come up in your Google search of Cape Town, South Africa.
During my stay here, I wish to bring to the forefront these areas, to exemplify the disheartening disparities between Cape Town’s rich and poor and how they live in such close proximity to one another, sometimes never crossing each other’s path.
Right next to this soccer field is the highway (left side, can’t be seen in the picture) on which I was riding in the back of a Range Rover while trying to snap pictures from a moving vehicle. I must say, to be riding in this sort of vehicle while taking pictures of this was absolutely eye opening, and I felt a sense of guilt, although I had no control over the situation, and it definitely was not my car. I kept thinking to myself, just 10 minutes ago I was in the city center of Cape Town filled with restaurants, bars, vegetarian hubs, markets, cafes, and anything your heart could possibly desire, and now I am here….
Staring through the tinted windows of a Range Rover at the way people are living just 10 minutes away.
The disparities between wealth and poverty are truly “in your face” here in Cape Town and I cannot help but recognize the privilege that not only I myself have, but many of those fortunate enough to live in the City Center.
I am able to explore small villages, and then have to opportunity to return to my comfortable apartment with shiny tile floors, stainless steel appliances, skyscraper views, and unlimited WiFi access. However, this narrative is not written the same for those living in these informal settlements, for lack of a better term.
I must say that I have spoken to many people and there seems to be many initiatives, both at a grassroots level, and governmental level that are attempting to address the needs of these communities. A lot of emphasis is being placed on education because many of the children in these settings do not attend school, and if they do, they usually stop going. Those who should be in high school go to schools outside in neighboring areas, as many of these informal communities do not have a high school. Considering the commute, the time, and the price to go to school every day for these teenagers, many end up dropping out.
I was told that the village I was at yesterday (Sir Lowry’s Pass) was given a donation of 200 laptops for their primary school, but the school has not used them for several reasons. One, they don’t have the proper staff that are trained to teach the children how to use the computers. Two, lack of electricity. Three, they are afraid that someone may try to steal the laptops. Four, they do not have the right infrastructure to ensure that the laptops will be utilized in an efficient manner (no desks, outlets, etc.). I am really trying to brainstorm a solution for this issue, and I hope to collaborate with the other fellows that are here with me. I would really love to create a plan for them to be able to use the laptops, and even run training sessions to teach the adults in the community how to use the laptops, thereby enabling them to teach the children.
Well, that’s all for now. Getting ready to leave for a little exploring and dinner.
Warmest, Lauren K.