What is South Africa? There is a huge difference between being black and white, rich and poor. Though big changes and improvements has been made in the past 15 years since the time of apartheid, in South Africa being black or white is not the same thing! My focus goes to the average South African black teenager and the average Norwegian teenager.
I am sitting here with my own computer, paid for by the school. The big watch at the bus station is showing 2.05 pm. I am on my way home. Later today I might go to a party, or buy myself a new pair of boots. I am tired of my old ones. I think in South Africa some feel blessed that they even have shoes! I bet some feel appreciative that they have the opportunity to go to school. I think they have a lot of perspectives and knowledge that we do not learn or experience at all in this part of the world.
I feel almost a little embarrassed when I compare my perspective of reality to an average black teenager in South Africa. People at my age work 15 hours a day for the same pay I get to clean my own room! It is hard to imagine, right?
Over 50% of South Africa’s population is uneducated. This is a pretty scary thought considering that 90% of South Africa’s population is between 15-35 years old. These are the people who are going to govern and develop the country in the future.
In Norway everyone who has finished primary school get a right to go to high school. Because Norway is such a wealthy country our government makes sure that we get everything we need. Our health is taken care of, our educational system is good and there is always somewhere to go if you need a roof over your head. We have it all. We never have to question if there is going to be food on the table next month. We expect everything to be taken care of. This is how our community works. I am thinking that is not the case for the average South African teenager.
One assumption that I have is that South African teenagers are much more independent, and prepared or used to rough times, compared to Norwegian teenagers whose knowledge about violence and misery is mostly experienced through TV screens or computer games. I do not know for sure, but from what I have found so far, I assume that a South African teenager’s social conditions and rough past have them grow up faster than a Norwegian teenager.
It is a possibility that Norwegian teenagers get treated like kids much longer. Sometimes I get the impression that anger and pain are not accepted feelings in our society, though denying them will not make them disappear! There is a reason why Norway has the largest rate of suicide among teenagers – in the world! One can only wonder why. I am not saying that South Africa has a better social culture, because both cultures have advantages and disadvantages.
That was social differences. Materialistically Norway is miles ahead of South Africa. As I mentioned, everything is taken care of: school, transport to school, school books etc. there are so many things we do not even have to think about that is an every day worry for a South African. For example: will there be food on the table? Will there even be a table? What will happen if someone gets sick? In Norway a school will be closed if there is not a certain amount of fresh air in a room with a certain amount of students. In South Africa that concern is probably on the bottom of the priority list. I realize that it can seem a little judgemental against Norwegian teenagers to claim that they are spoiled and unappreciative. But looking at it in a large perspective I think we should- with all our resources, be more active and conscious of our global issues.
I am under the impression that people who come from nothing fight harder, and give more of themselves than those of us who is fortunate and have a lot. Is that right? And is that how we want it to be? We are without doubt more fortunate and privileged than the average South African teenager. We have it all! I know I have a bright looking future; everything I need is right in front of me.
Then one can speculate if our materialistic advantage makes us happier than the South Africans. Probably in some ways – for some, but then again we have the highest rate of suicide among young people. What does that tell us?
Looking at it from another perspective we should not sweep under the carpet that what teenagers in South Africa experience every day is far worse than our daily challenges. We have access to so much more resources. We have so much more funds!
From my point of view, the situation we are in now can be compared to the safety routine on air planes: first put the mask on yourself; then put the mask on the person next to you. We got our mask on, and we have had it on for quite some time. Now, it is time to help the ones next to us!