Manenberg is a township of Cape Town, South Africa which was created by the apartheid government for low-income Coloured families in 1966. It has a long and strong tradition of being involved in anti-apartheid and resistance movements during the 1970’s through to the 1990’s. The area has a rich history of minstrel music and was also known as a jazz hub where many struggling musicians plied their trade. The conditions which prevail in Manenberg today however are a far cry from the cultural hub it once was.
Since democracy in 1994 the area has seen dramatic economic and moral decay. Manenberg is densely populated and overcrowded with high unemployment resulting in extreme poverty, crime, drug and alcohol dependence and gangsterism. The gangs of Manenberg are some of the most notorious and violent in the world.
Most families depend on a social grant of less than R300 per child to survive and can’t afford to pay school fees. Poverty is so severe that the educational department took the decision to exempt Manenberg residents from school fees. Many of our learners are hungry and suffer the effects of drug and alcohol abuse which impacts on their ability to perform in the classroom. Many come from single parent homes or are raised by grandparents. Some are taken out of school to beg or to work to assist the family. Most have never experienced life outside of Manenberg. All have been affected by gang violence and many are physically and sexually abused.
Children in Manenberg receive little or no preschool education and come into Grade 1 with huge developmental deficiencies. Very large class sizes prohibit educators from providing sufficient support to struggling learners and it is not uncommon to encounter learners in Grades 5 and 6 (aged 10-12) who cannot read. Parental support is almost non-existent and educators are stretched.