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South African Townships

South African Townships have been described as everything from ‘poverty-ridden’ and ‘destitute’ to the ‘heartbeat’ and ‘hidden jewels’ of the country. As a volunteer at Dreams To Reality, you will have the opportunity to work and make a difference in these disadvantaged communities. Our volunteers are able to

The history
During Apartheid, non-whites (black Africans, Coloureds and Indians) were not allowed to live in “white only” areas and had to move into segregated spaces. The term ‘township’ and ‘location’ refers to the underdeveloped, urban living areas that developed as a result.

Problems in townships
Due to overpopulation, poverty and poor access to resources during Apartheid, townships still face severe challenges and problems.

Poor sewerage systems in townships is a big problem. It is poorly planned, constructed, and continually overloaded due to an ever-growing population. Frequent blockages, spillages, and a limited number of public toilets are just some of the problems that the locals face.

Another problem is poor access to clean water. Due to overcrowding, only one water pump is allocated per township block and has to be used for everything from cleaning clothes, cooking, drinking, bathing, and cleaning the house.

As you drive past a township, it’s hard to miss the electrical wires stringing from the power boxes. Residents are stealing electricity because they would otherwise not have access to it. These wires are poorly structured and potentially dangerous.

The poorly designed and built ‘shacks’ in which the people live are dangerous and overcrowded. A plot of land designed for one family now houses six, and the structures are made out of scrap parts that often fall apart and easily leak and catch fire. They are illegal and make service maintenance difficult.

Even though all children have the right to basic education as set out in the South African constitution, one of the biggest problems facing South African youths are still poor education. Furthermore, gangs are rife in townships and children join gangs as early as age 12 or 13.

On the bright side
Some townships have been rapidly developing since 1994 with an influx of wealth and middle-income areas growing in parts of several formerly disadvantaged communities. Business opportunities, entrepreneurial success stories and creative endeavours are emerging from townships every day.

Townships are hotbeds of creativity, and are diverse, dynamic, lively places. Some believe that over the next ten years, townships will have all the amenities and facilities that suburbs have and will furthermore become centres of economic activity and development. This is seen when people refer to the historic Soweto township as a “developing suburb”, where houses even sell for in the millions of Rands.

Businesses are investing in townships, and the development of the Khayelitsha Business District saw the first shopping centre being developed in a Western Cape Township. The increase in services, resources and amenities reflects the fact that many middle-class families choose to stay in townships as it reflects their cultural heritage.

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