Kaffir Boy

“ Sirens blared, voices screamed and shouted, wood cracked and windows shattered, children bawled, dogs barked and footsteps pounded”(7). This scene is from the autobiography Kaffir Boy written by Mark Mathabane. That is one of the scenes he had to live through every morning in apartheid South Africa. Apartheid is a policy of segregation and economic discrimination against non-whites. Apartheid system affected every black person living in South Africa during that time. It forced blacks to become slaves in their own country. The system forced blacks to live in unsanitary environments, work-degrading jobs and carry passes, and receive limited education. Blacks and whites were living in different sections during apartheid.

While whites lived comfortable lives in their extravagant mansions and driving their fancy cars blacks had to live in a disease infested neighborhood with no electricity or in door plumbing. Approximately one thousand people lived in shacks that were squeezed together in a one-mile zone. The alleys were filled with dirt, rats, human wasted and diseases. Blacks lived in houses made of “old whitewash, a leaking ceiling of rusted Inx propped up by a thin wall of crumbling adobe bricks, two tiny windows made of cardboard and pieces of glass, a creaky, termite-eaten door low for a person of average height to pass through…and a floor made of patches of cement earth”(31). Living in such a degrading environment kills self-esteem, lowers work ethic and leaves no hope for the future.
Degrading low paying jobs were the only jobs available for black men. Women worked as servants for whites. Men had to work in mines, clean up toilets or work as police officers abusing their own people. “Shit-men-belligerent immigrant workers who, because of what they did, were looked upon by many black people-went about the communal lavatories picking up buckets of excrement”(83). Working as servants for whites was one of the better jobs for black women. Blacks could not walk around freely in their own country without carrying a passbook.Without a passbook, blacks could not work or travel. The passbook had to be paid for by black families who did not have any money. They were arrested and put in jail if their passbooks were not in order. Blacks were trapped with no way out, not even the hope of education.

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The education facilities provided for black children were under horrible conditions. The schools were over crowded, there was a major shortage of teachers, and the children were constantly beaten for not paying their school fees. Blacks only received enough education to enable them to work for whites. They did not have nearly as much of an opportunity as the white children. “We were so tightly packed into that narrow courtyard that some children fainted from excessive heat and stuffiness”(136).“…half a dozen children fainted and were revived, some only to find again.”(136). Black children were not given the proper opportunity, and environment to succeed.


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