Our Problem with Africa

IMG_1833She’s a Xhosa girl, living in what was formerly known as the Transkei. And herein lies a story of The Problem With Africa.

She’s in Grade 11 and attends the most reputable school in the community, with a respectable Principal who has made newspaper headlines, because of his vision, commitment and results that his school is churning out.
The school has just been resourced with an E-Lab, with satellite internet.
All good.
She’s in a very good place.
No excuses.

She walks to school every morning, about 15km, which means that at the end of the day, she walks back home.
Age 15.

She doesn’t know her father, he’s not around… has never been around, so it’s only her Mother who looks after her. But her Mother is uneducated and unemployable as anything more than a cleaner.
There are 14 children in the house.
You heard me correctly. 14. One Mother. No Father.

Pop quiz: what would you do?

This family depends on the government’s social grant of approximately R250/month per child under the age of 18, for their survival…
But the grant only applies to 4 children. 10 of them receive nothing.

R1000/month income to sustain a family of 14 children.

Sure, Mum works as a cleaner at a hotel, but let’s be brutally honest with ourselves for a moment… how much do you pay your domestic worker?
And once transport costs are subtracted, how much do they take home?
Could you sustain a family of 4 with what you pay?
What about a family of 14?

Now, I have no interest in judging you, when my record has more fouls than a football match. I am merely putting things into perspective.

She walks to school everyday.
Everyday, she walks home.
Age 15.

At home, she must cook, clean and care for 13 siblings, while Mum travels back from work. Then she must wash school clothes for the next day… and at some stage, do her homework under the light of the moon, with no desk… let’s not even start thinking about books, internet, study groups etc.

She walks to school every day, with all of this inside of her.
Is it any wonder that her concentration is not what you and I expect it to be?

I encourage you to read My Life My Africa, and you will see that – as a westerner – I have a deeper insight and wider experience of REAL Africa than most people. Yet, even I must confess that I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND the plight of the native African.
Neither will you.

You will never truly even know your own domestic worker.

You and I might grow in knowledge, we might gain insight…
but we will never TRULY UNDERSTAND.


And to think that we do… or that we will, is nothing less than arrogant, foolish, shortsighted and – as my friend, Ondya-the-hunter, from Mfuwe Zambia would say – “just plain stupidity, in terms of idiocy.”

Our problem with Africa is just this: a massive knowledge gap. We don’t know each other.
Are you prepared to accept this as your Truth?
And if you are, like I am only just starting to, what do we do with this information?

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