The following is a portrait of two ten-year-old boys who lived under apartheid in South Africa around 1980. Both were named Jacob and were born in the same city, the same day, tsame time, but only the color of their skin distinguished one from the other. Both came from Johannesburg, a city in South Africa. In spite of their great similarities, these two young people had completely different lives. Jacob had dark skin, and he lived in the township of Soweto. The other Jacob had white skin, and he lived in the beautiful area of ​​Rivonia. In spite of apartheid, the boy who had dark skin was able to go to school, even if the roof of his house leaked and he didn’t always have a pencil to do his homework.

He would have to quit school very young to work and earn some money to help support his family. At least he had learned to read and write, which was not true for everyone in Soweto, like his friend and neighbor Albert. This friend had had an eye infection as a baby, and he was now almost blind. He couldn’t go to school because of his blindness. He had to stay at home and help his mother as much as he could.

Jacob, the White boy, had had the same disease as Albert. The difference is that he was treated quickly, and there were no aftereffects of the disease. This was because he got immediate medical help and his parents were able to pay for this help. His school was much like that of any young Quebecker. He was not forced to quit school to help his family, and he was able to continue onto university if he wanted to.

How was this injustice possible?

It was a result of the racism that came with apartheid and the resulting poverty for the Black population. In 1996, 28% of Blacks aged over 26 years had no schooling, compared to 2% of the White population. In 1999, only 8.9% of the Black population of South Africa had access to insurance or medical assistance, compared to 67.4% for the White population.

Author:  Marianne Giguère

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