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Children ‘born free’ in South Africa say race shouldn’t matter

It has now been eighteen years since the fall of apartheid in South Africa and for many youngsters, a democratic system of government is all they’ve known.

Yet race is still a huge issue in the country, as politicians grapple with the vast inequalities between blacks, Asians and whites. Of the 43% of people who continue to live in poverty on less than 2 dollars (£1.25) each day, the vast majority are black South Africans.

For many, the key problem for children from poor black townships remains one of education. The quality of teaching and learning remains poor in many schools, limiting their opportunities and chances of finding work. According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa is one of the worst performing countries in maths and science globally, with one in six pupils achieving less than 10% in the secondary school leaving certificate exam for maths. With large numbers of ill-educated black youngsters unemployed and seeing little hope for the future, the BBC’s South African political analyst warns “it is poverty, inequality and lack of education that will push [South Africa] to the brink”.

In a companion article focusing on where race features in modern-day South Africa, one eighteen year-old tells the BBC that young black South Africans still use the history of apartheid “as an excuse for underachieving”. Despite growing up in a poor area and in a household where his mother sometimes struggled to pay the primary school fees of less than 1 dollar per month, Goodman Lepota is now studying at the prestigious African Leadership Academy. Accepted as one of the top students across the country, the teenager argues that he never saw the colour of his skin as a barrier to achieving or as a reason to feel inferior.

The youngster argues that race should no longer be considered an issue and that black people should not rely on pro-black policies such as the Black Economic Empowerment scheme, which aims to raise the number of black workers in various sectors of the economy. Goodman says simply “I’ve worked really hard to be where I am” and argues that any kind of racial discrimination policies merely act to divide the country and hold back its development. The youngster believes South Africa should now concentrate on making itself competitive in a global economy and feels that eighteen years on from apartheid, “it is time to move on”.

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