At the southern nose of Africa, with the Indian Ocean on the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, lies the Republic of South Africa. It has a population of 45 million people and is about five times larger than Great Britain. South Africa has a coastline of more than 1,850 miles.
In the era of the apartheid government the country had only four provinces, but since a change in government in 1994, the country was divided into nine provinces.
I am 15 years old in a country that is amongst the most violent places in the world.
South Africa is filled with contrasts: different climates to different regions, different peoples, ethnic groups, languages, fauna and flora, etc. If you were to travel through the country you would be amazed at the landscape. The western part of the country is very dry and it mainly consists of the Kalahari Desert. The eastern part, which is affected by the warm Indian Ocean, is more tropical.
My country is young compared to most other nations of the world, but its history is filled with civil wars and uprisings. There were wars between black and white people since the first settlers came here in 1652.
Then there was the war at the turn of the 20th century in which white Afrikaners rose up against the colonization of the British. Even now there is a divide between the Afrikaner and the English, who caused the deaths of many women and children in concentration camps.
One would think that all is forgotten, but just like Jewish people would never fully trust the Germans again, there will never be complete trust between the Afrikaner and the English.
British rule was enforced until South Africa’s independence in 1961.
The current situation has become almost unbearable. South African society is filled with crime, corruption and extreme violence. The schooling system is falling to pieces as the new government is unable to govern. One must realise that this nation is led by an organization that has never governed a country before. Since freedom was achieved in 1994, billions of dollars are unaccounted for. Schools have become the breeding ground for criminals, and there are constant racial conflicts there. Being a girl places one at constant risk of being raped; being a boy might even be worse, as you are at the mercy of gangs that control the schools.
The curriculum has changed four or five times since I started school in 1999. Most children have no foundation of knowledge and the majority drop out of school after the tenth grade, which is causing problems. Many children are corrupted beyond repair, producing a society with no future. Only one in ten leaving school find a job. University is very expensive and does not ensure a good future. Most graduates leave the country to find a future elsewhere.
My father has taken my siblings and I out of school so that we can be home-schooled. It is much safer, but is also lonely.
In all nine provinces, the education system is a big problem, as there are 11 official languages. African democracy demands that all languages be given a fair share. You can imagine the problems this leads to.
The divorce rate in South Africa is similar to the United States, with all the problems attached to it. Children grow up without supervision after school. Most of the friends I had at school came from broken homes where parents were alcoholics, drug addicts or abusive. No one seems to care about anyone else; most are only concerned with their own welfare. I am so grateful for the parents that God gave me, as well as the blessings upon our family.
The prisons are 180% full in most instances and numerous criminals are occasionally released to make room for more. It is coming to the point where only serious crime is punished. Being sentenced for murder means that one is able to walk the streets after serving only eight years in prison.
Lately, strikes have disrupted the lives of many in South Africa. Schools are even forced to close for weeks at a time due to intimidation. Many children, especially white children, have no ambition because they believe they have no future. As a white person, the chances of finding employment, no matter your education, are very slim. This is due to the government’s black economic empowerment (BEE) and affirmative action policies, which were developed after apartheid ended.
The unemployment figure in the country is very high (43%). The government’s policy to spread employment evenly through the different races has failed. The white male is last to receive employment, and for us in the Church who keep God’s Sabbath it makes our chances of working after graduating from school very slim.
Due to the nation’s high crime rate, we as teens are not free to travel to a local shop or anywhere else for that matter. We must keep ourselves busy by reading books and chatting to friends on the phone or via SMS (text messages). It is not safe for us to be outside alone. We look forward to leaving the house on the Sabbath, as well as for the greatest time of the year—the Feast of Tabernacles.
South Africa has many species of antelope living in their natural habitat, as well as the famous “Big Five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) and other large mammals, such as the giraffe and hippopotamus. There are many game farms, game parks, national parks and zoos in South Africa. These attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. But traveling is expensive, as the rates have been adjusted to dollars, beyond the reach of the average South African.
Because of the availability of live animals, a type of African Art developed that the continent is quite famous for. One can buy anything from canvases, painted ostrich eggs, leather work, to wood carvings and many types of wood work.
The world sees South Africa through the eyes of Hollywood and the news media. Many things reported are not true and much is hidden to the world—for example, human trafficking. Fourteen thousand children are reported missing to the police each year and 900 are never found again. Witchcraft is big business here, especially with the high AIDS figure. Many children, usually those below the age of five, who disappear become victims of witchcraft—they get slaughtered for Muti (medicine). There are other problems caused by witchdoctors, who tell their AIDS patients to have intercourse with a virgin in order to be cured. Numerous girls, from newborns to age sixteen, are raped every day. It is no wonder then why we would rather stay at home.
The people in this country are divided through sport. Most Afrikaans-speaking people are rugby crazy, while the African and English-speaking people are serious soccer fans. Most schools stick to this, whereas Afrikaans-speaking schools provide rugby and netball (basketball), and English schools offer soccer and netball.
Because of the warm weather and lush scenery, water sports and hiking are pleasant pastimes if you can assemble a big enough group—safety in numbers. The same is with cycling and jogging, but the latter is not safe to do anymore.
Being a teenager in South Africa is not easy, but we look forward to the day when God’s kingdom will restore this land, and all children can walk freely, without fear.