We live in a socially complex country in which people of different races were once assigned different places to live within the same towns. These restrictions no longer exist, yet the division remains an economic one. I spent eight years working among the people who reside in what was called ‘the township’ in Grahamstown East – an area historically set aside for ‘people of colour’. I was part of an organisation that set up pre-schools, home care groups and ran a feeding scheme for pre-school children. It was my task to oversee these programmes as well as to raise funds for their educational equipment and running costs. I organised regular training and upgrading workshops to help the teachers, many of whom had not necessarily even finished their own schooling. During those years I got to know that part of town and many of the people who live there very well.

This is a typical view of homes built close together. Several yards contain corrugated iron shacks to accommodate more people, while others boast trees or vegetable garden.

While the more recently developed areas contain larger modern brick houses, there are still a lot of what are commonly called ‘matchbox houses’. Some of these have been extended over time to make them more spacious.

In the older part only the arterial roads have been tarred and the rest of the streets tend to be dirt. The newer areas have tarred streets and proper pavements.

Some young boys are playing a ball game on a section of open, far from level, ground.

Goats roam freely.

As do cattle.

Sadly, it is not uncommon to see rubbish strewn about.

The local municipality has a lot to answer for.


29 thoughts on “GRAHAMSTOWN EAST

  1. Thanks for the glimpse of life in your area. My parents came from very, very poor families who did the best with what they had, which wasn’t much. My mother often said of her grandmother, “Even when it seemed like there was nothing in the cupboards, she always managed to put together a meal.”


  2. It is more than the local municipality that has something to answer for. The problems seem intractable but it is good to see that you are part of the efforts to solve them.


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  4. Anne, thanks for sharing a bit of your work and teaching background. I’m embarrassed to say my entire exposure to South Africa as a young person, was the assigned reading of Cry the Beloved Country in high school.


    • There is no need to be embarrassed about that at all. ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ is an excellent novel – although how relatable to a Canadian at high school level I am not sure . The title of that novel echoes through the minds of many in this country as we weave through crumbling infrastructure, mismanagement, corruption and the pandemic. The country is beautiful though and most of the citizens are resilient.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The book was memorable enough that I still remember it decades later. I also remember reading the book Out of Africa and an interesting biography of the author. We took mostly US and European history and geography in school, and Canadian of course. I find generally US citizens to be worse, as they only seem to learn US history. They cross the border and think we all live in igloos. I’m hoping the younger generation is better informed. I suspect that many countries are in a similar situation, teetering from once prosperous nations to close to falling apart, esp. now that inflation seems here to stay and corruption rampant and morals and ethics lacking. I worry about the US, as there is such a big divide there. We tend to be more tolerant of other nationalities here, there’s not as much hate.


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