Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Growing Up Rural, Raising Urban

My mother and I have been given the opportunity to be guest bloggers. We were going to have separate topics and blogs, through brainstorming we decided to merge to make the process easier and enjoyable. One night during brainstorming, my mother came up with the idea to write about how she grew up in rural South Africa and what influence it had on her raising children in urban South Africa. So we decided to do a comparative blog, comparing different decades, circumstances, communities, locations and opportunities.


Rural: I was home schooled for two years and started public school at the age of seven and I was  promoted to Sub B (grade 2).
Slates were used instead of books and we had one slate for all subjects. Once you were finished with a certain subject, you had erase what was written so you could continue writing for the next subject. At the end of the year you had to remember everything that was once written on the slate for the exams. There was no source of referral.

Urban: My mom would wake me up and help me prepare for the day ahead. Preschool was fun, filled with hours on the jungle gym and sand pit.
We had nap time but I hardly slept. I just couldn't fall asleep I guess I just wanted to play and play.
We had amazing meals. This is where I learnt to use a knife and fork. I really can't remember any academic activities. Just memories of rollerblading and playing on the see saw with my boyfriend of the time.

Rural: I would wake up early in the morning. There were no alarm clocks,  the activities of domestic animals outside woke you up. I would then prepare for school. I only had lunch when our parents were are at home. Coffee was the main part of breakfast, eaten with bread if available. Otherwise in the morning people would eat food from the previous night if there was something left over. I didn't have lunch boxes and my school didn't have a tuck shop.

Urban: I attended an all girls school. In grade one we learnt the alphabet, Klanke (Afrikaans Phonics), adding and subtracting, learning to read and write the date.
My teacher told my mom I was a day dreamer. I was probably day dreaming about all the fun times I had in preschool and my long last boyfriend (that is just a joke).
I remember writing I wanted to be a princess for one assignment and a police women for another. I guess I just wanted to be pamered like all the princesses I read about in fairy tales and save the world. The police women dream did not materialise however, princess still getting there ...

Rural: I attended a co-ed school and we had all different ages in our classes.
There was Assembly every morning.
The medium of instruction was Xhosa and our curriculum included the following subjects:
  • Xhosa
  • English
  • Afrikaans
  • Social Studies
  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra, Trig, Geometry (introduced in standard 4)
School started at 9. Break at 12:00 -13:00. School finished at 15:00. In summer we would practice for athletics after school. All other extra mural activities performed during school hours.
School children gathered all the equipment to build new classrooms community build new classes. A form of punishment was corporal punishment.  We had to collect sticks that were used for that and the teachers would test if they were strong by actually beating us with them. You would be in more trouble if you brought a stick that was not strong enough. Usually you were re-beaten with a stronger one.

Urban: There were many opportunities to try out all kinds of sport and after school activities at my Junior school, (Rustenburg Girls Junior). Some of them included:
  • Art club
  • Recorder
  • Netball
  • Xylophone
  • Bridge
  • Portugese
Winter days at aftercare included warm delicious hot chocolate.


Rural: The boys made guitars from cooking oil drums and flutes were sold in shops. Recorders were made from cane of mealies or grain and drums from calabash and animal tides.

Urban: The Spice Girls was my favourite band. I ate the lollipops, had the movie which I watched repeatedly. As friends we even pretended that we were the Spice Girls. The clothes we wore were also inspired by them.
We had Michael Jackson videos which I would watch sometimes after school. Then he was my favourite singer and still is one of my favourites today. I always wished to be at one of his concerts.


Rural: All the food was from the garden depending on the season. During spring we would plough and in autumn the fresh produce would be ready for consumption. This included mealies, pumpkin, squash, potatoes, beans, soya beans, spinach cabbage. We even produced milk from soya beans. Otherwise milk was also from the sheep, goats and cows. From this milk we also made sour milk which was used to make mvubo.
No one ever starved as the whole community shared whatever they had because everyone had produce in abundance. People would be given imbewu (seeds of various vegetables) which were enough to last them a lifetime once ploughed.

Urban: My mother introduced me to some of the food she used to eat when she was younger. I called tripe nuka meat (smelly meat) because of the smell. At family gatherings we were the only children our age that would eat tripe and other children didn't understand what we were eating. She also fed us different types of porridges.
In one of our favourite movies, It Takes Two, we saw the children eating Sloppy Joes. It's made from a hamburger roll and mince meat and my mother made it for us all the time.
McDonalds came to South African in 1995 and my mother would have to drive 18kms away from the house for it and we would stand in line. It was the only McDonalds available in Cape Town at the time.

Rural: If you were well off you would slaughter sheep, pig or goat. Neighbours would be aware of this and the binnegoed (tripe) will be shared with every one on the first day. If you did not share the meat, it would rot since there were no refrigerators. But the thatched rondavels were cold so meat would stay fresh for two days.
Sundays we would eat luxury food, chicken if parents are home. Eggs were from the hens but were not eaten, but sold or traded in the shops. But that did stop us from stealing them and cooking them while playing poppie-huis (house-house).


Rural: No shopping was done and no money was used. Mealies, chicken, live stock was used as form of trading. We would exchange mealies for goods from the shop. Those that did not have live stock were loaned male and female sheep or cattle to start their live stock. However, the people who were loaned did not have to bring back the original or amount of livestock back. But they were always scared because they knew their original livestock did not belong to them. In return they had to be involved in community events whether it was building a school or ploughing vegetables.
The shop where we bought everything was called, General Dealer. It sold everything from sweets to coffins.

Urban: Toys R Us was the only store that existed in the shopping mall for me. Even if I wasn't going to buy anything from the shop, spending time in the store was more than enough for me. I would also enjoy spending time at the Exclusive Books' children section and I would look through Dr. Seuss and the book versions of the Disney Movies that were on circuit at that current time.

Domestic Life

Rural: Those who had good stock for ploughing, ploughed for others. All the women would hlakhula (removal of weed around everything that has been ploughed). They would take turns to do all the maize fields for that location. The women also made bricks and gathered grass so that the men could build for those that did not have houses. Thatched rondavels still stand today in the rural areas and were man made without any architectural background. In Cape Town, if you have a thatched roof today you are most probably a millionaire. When the harvest is ready in March everyone shares. During this time children will have amabhaqolo (boiled mealies) at school for lunch. This was the only time we had lunch boxes.
There was no electricity so we used candles. As children we had to fetch water from the river everyday. There was a water tank that collect rain water but it was only used in certain circumstances. It was under lock and key.

Urban: We had a lady come take care of us during the holidays during the day while our mom was away working. She would also play with us and watch movies and they did our hair and told us stories of their families. Housework was never included in our daily activities.
After school we would do homework and have supper. Each time we had supper the news would be playing so we never missed anything that was happening abroad and in South Africa. We would get ready for the next day and then go to sleep.
My highlight was going home and playing with my little brother.

Rural: We lived with domestic workers while the parents were away working. Even though they were employed to work, most of the work was done by the children and they would order us around. However it's nothing to regret as we learnt a lot from it. When the parents arrived they would have a list of all the things we did wrong, including the stealing of eggs. The reason why we had to steal the eggs was because they didn't feed us.
The domestic men would have to take care of the livestock. However, when the parents were away we had to do everything, including finding lost livestock in the cold and mist.


Rural: Our clothes were made at home. It was a luxury to have a dress bought back from the shop. We would call it Ready-Made. Fabrics for the clothes were sold from the General Dealer. I didn't wear shoes as most of the children didn't have. The ones who didn't have shoes said we were going to step on them. We only wore shoes when we went to Church. There were also no jerseys so blankets were used for warmth.

Urban: The clothing I wore usually had images of the Disney movies that were out on circuit. I was a tomboy so I wore floral tights and t-shirts which were most comfortable to play in.


Rural: We did not know about politics because no one was talking about it then. There were no newspapers and televisions. The radios were only on at night and we would listen to ibali (story) if the were batteries. Most of the time the batteries were flat we put them hot water or the sun to recharge them.

Urban: I was aware that something exciting was happening in South Africa. The images I remember are images of Nelson Mandela and voting in 1994. We would paint our faces everyday with the new South African flag and sang the new National Anthem every chance we got.

Mode Of Transport

Rural: Fortunately we had a car at home which in turn served the whole community. Otherwise the main form of transport were sledges.
If you were lucky you would have a wagon. There was a bus that went to town at 9am. You would have to walk about 10km to catch the bus. It would go to town and come back at 3pm. If one bought lots of things then someone with a sledge would meet the person at the bus stop and transport the goods.

Urban: Our school outings were very exciting as we were allowed to take buses and trains together as a group to the seaside. Otherwise my mother would take us to and from school.

Friends, Toys and Playtime

Rural: Most of the children did not have toys. In our household we had dolls and tea cups. I played with all the children from around the neighbourhood. Our games included:
  • Gqaphu (Variations of games with a skipping rope)
  • Puca (A game played with stones)
  • Ndize (Hide and Seek)
Urban: Indoors we would play, house-house, which consisted of a mommy, daddy, baby and a kitchen. We would dress up too, mostly as the mommy, in our moms heels and bra which we would stuff with tennis balls.
I even would put our kittens under our shirts and pretended that they were our babies.
When playing teacher-teacher, my sister went to the extra length and even prepared work sheets that I would have to complete. We even once shouted like our teachers at a dear friend and she started crying (sorry). We used the white walls of our room as a blackboard.
Outdoors we would play
  • Ring a ring a rosie
  • Hide and seek
  • House-house (mud pies was our food)
My large collection of toys included:
  • Barbie Dolls
  • Dragon flies
  • Kitty In My Pocket
  • Puppy In My Pocket
  • Tricycles
  • Tamagotchi
  • Power Rangers
I am fortunate to have a twin sister to play with all day long. We would occasionally fight with each other. Fights included permanent makers in hand, white clothing on and chasing each other while scribbling on each others clothes.


Rural: There weren't any movies.
Urban: I would watch Disney movies until I could recite and sing along to all the songs. Some of my favourite movies were:

  • Home Alone
  • Beethoven
  • Denis The Menace
Growing up in the rural areas with all the experiences I had, I never knew that I could even stay in Idutywa, which was the nearest town. To me it looked like Johannesburg. I had a conception that people from the rural areas were so far behind in their lifestyle compared to people that lived in the cities.
When I had children, I was living in the city and had already experienced the city life. The best thing I could do for my children was to instill the value system that I undermined and thought was far behind from modern society then. This included surviving with all the resources you have around you, with or without money. - Nikho Mputa

I am honoured to be brought up by a mother who made the most of her opportunities that were given to her. How my mother was raised grounded me and made realise that you can be whatever you want wherever you want irrespective of where you came from. Simplicity of her life has made me appreciate the simple things like a good value system, morals and sharing experiences with loved ones.
When comparing our childhood and backgrounds we were both given the opportunity to be children and ourselves and appreciate what has been given to us. I realised that if there is grounding at home, the outcome is great irrespective of whether you grew up in the rural or urban area. - Thozama Mputa

Written by: Nikho and Thozama Mputa
Edited by: Zovuyo Mputa


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