chapter  1
24 Pages

Social Transformation and Child Development in South Africa

On February 11,1990, after twenty-eight years of confinement, Nelson Mandela walked from prison to freedom. In doing so, he set into motion a wave of change that was to sweep over South Africa and give hope to millions of blacks who suffered under the yoke of oppression. News of his release became a cause for celebration as South Africans and the world anticipated that peace and justice would return to a land torn apart by the violence of apartheid. The political change signaled by Mandela's release also raised hope that life would be better for future generations of South Africans, Several months later, a group of more than three thousand infants born in Johannesburg-Soweto became known as "Mandela's children" because their births so cIosely followed upon Mandela's release and the renewal of hope. Appearing on the scene at the dawn of this remarkable period of transformation, they symbolized the beginning of an era in which the nation would cherish its children irrespective of language, culture, or skin color. Because they would never directly know the sting of apartheid, they embodied the unblemished possibilities for the new South Africa, If this grand vision became a reality, they would become the first generation of a rainbow society in which people of all colors might live together in harmony as equals under the law. Under these newly hospitable conditions, it was hoped that Mandela's children would flourish and the nation would prosper. With the passage of time, questions arise about how far they have come toward realizing those optimistic dreams and fulfilling those noble aspirations for its children. Would the promise of freedom lift the living conditions of the oppressed and improve the developmental status of their children? For some, the early answers to these questions are disappointing. Consider the case of Ibrahim and his son, Issak, whose lives were lost as part of the tragic cost of poverty and despair that continue to haunt South Africa in the post-apartheid era.