As Malebye and I walked through the township he recounted some of the hardships he endured under apartheid, such as being forced to carry a passbook at all times. To travel to another town, even for work, you had to get permission from the authorities. They did not want people leaving the townships freely. To be caught without an authorized passbook meant a beating, or jail, or both. It is important to remember that apartheid only ended 20 years ago. Any adult you meet in South Africa grew up under apartheid. Also important to consider, most Black teachers in South Africa were themselves educated under apartheid.
Today Malebye surprises me by saying that in some ways education in Bophutatswana under apartheid was superior to what is now available in many townships. While there was a lack of resources, there was also greater educational independence and a greater sense of unity and purpose. Now the lack of resources is still an issue, but all schools must follow the same national curriculum and all students compete on the same national exams. Picture students studying science in a township, who have no textbooks and no lab equipment, taught by teachers who may have themselves received an inferior education, and yet these students must compete against schools with resources comparable to Ithaca high school.
A final note: because of the ravages of HIV/AIDS more than 70% of Black South Africans are under the age of 35. South Africa is rapidly losing the “veterans” of the fight against apartheid. Many of the youth currently growing up in townships do not feel the motivation of a unified struggle. They see poverty, crime and HIV/AIDS as simply the conditions of existence, not the consequences of injustice. For many of them there is no light at the end of the tunnel, there is just the tunnel.