Refugees in South AfricaRefugees in South Africa face many hardships as they search for safety. A backlog of refugee applicants leads to difficulty finding jobs and poor access to government services. Meanwhile, many refugees experience prejudice and are blamed for escalating crime.

Ahead are 10 facts about refugees in South Africa.

  1. The majority of refugees in South Africa come from countries in Northern Africa.
    These countries include Angola, Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Many refugees see South Africa as a gateway to other continents such as Europe and North America. South Africa is the wealthiest and most developed part of Africa, making it an ideal place for migrants to seek refuge.
  2. Refugees flee their countries for many reasons.
    Most African refugees flee their home countries because of financial crises, cost of living, military crime or high rates of unemployment. Corrupt governments can create instability that drives people from their homes. For example, so many people died in the 1998 outbreak of fighting in the DRC that it was labeled the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.
  3. Refugees often face violence or treacherous terrain while crossing the border.
    If migrants are fortunate enough to get past police patrols and wildlife, they may wind up in the hands of gangs known as the guma guma. The guma guma have terrorized migrants fleeing to South Africa for many years. They operate in disguise and behave ruthlessly.
  4. The South African government is required to protect all refugees.
    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “has liberal asylum legislation that incorporates all basic principles of refugee protection including freedom of movement, the right to work and access to basic social services.” This includes access to health facilities and school enrollment.
  5. South Africa does not have any refugee camps.
    Refugees live mostly without assistance in urban areas and must seek out government buildings if they require additional help. One of the UNHCR’s focuses in South Africa is building its capacity to serve refugees.
  6. Gaining refugee status requires lots of paperwork.
    Refugees must obtain a section 22 permit to be protected from deportation. According to the Department of Home Affairs, all migrants who enter the Republic of South Africa must claim to be asylum seekers before receiving asylum transit permits. Migrants then have 14 days to report to the nearest Refugee Reception Office at the Department of Home Affairs.
    At the Reception Office, migrants’ fingerprints are recorded and initial interviews are conducted. Permits are valid for six months and allow holders to freely work or study in South Africa until their permits expire.
  7. It costs nothing to apply for refugee status.
    There is no cost to apply for refugee status in South Africa. This contributes to the volume of people fleeing there.
  8. South Africa has more refugees than it can handle.
    Due to the high volume of migrants requesting refugee status in South Africa, the status determination process is overwhelmed with applications. Additionally, social service programs face challenges when asylum seekers are allowed to use various services before conclusive decisions are made about their status.
  9. Refugees have to fend off xenophobic attacks.
    Xenophobia is defined as the hatred or fear of foreigners. Xenophobic violence targeted at migrants began in 2008 and hasn’t let up. In May 2015, approximately 1,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees were forced to flee their South African homes.
  10. There are refugee supporters in South Africa.
    After the 2015 surge in xenophobia, the UNHCR put together a three-tiered refugee reintegration package for around 3,000 people. The package included rental subsidies for two months, two months’ worth of food vouchers and one-time provisions of basic nonfood items. The UNHCR is just one of many organizations using their resources and connections to help South African refugees.

While refugees in South Africa face many hardships both on the journey and at the destination, they have international allies. With the support of the UNHCR and others, refugees in South Africa can find the better lives they seek.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Techno Girls: Guiding and Empowering Young South Africans
South Africa has made huge strides for fostering a more gender equal society through addressing gender-based violence and combating gender stereotypes. An initiative called Techno Girls has offered up its hand in minimizing gender gaps, addressing the gender disparities head on in the educational and career sector.

Techno Girls is an initiative started in 2005 by UNICEF in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Education, the Ministry in the Presidency: Women, the Department of Education, the State Information Technology Agency and Uweso Consulting.

The program provides opportunities for girls who prove academic merit between the ages of 15 and 18, and who come from disadvantaged communities to begin exploring career avenues in traditionally under-represented sectors — math, science, technology and engineering.

According to Statistics South Africa, in 2012, the percentage of women in non-agricultural employment increased slightly from 43 percent in 1996 to 45 percent.

Moreover, in the results for the National Senior Certificate Examinations in 2010, it was reported that 52 percent of boys passed in comparison to 44 percent of girls. For Physical Science, 50 percent of boys passed while 46 percent of girls did the same.

Although gender equality has improved over the years, more work needs to be done to balance out gender ratios within STEM subject matter and career sectors. Girls are often discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering or science and Techno Girls is working to change that.

For instance, Techno Girls provides mentorship, shadowing experiences and skills development initiatives where girls can gain insights and leadership skills in the public and private sectors.

Previous opportunities have included shadowing at the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), INVESTEC, and the Johannesburg Roads Agency.

As of 2016, over 5000 girls have benefited from the program and have moved on to receive university or college scholarships. The Techno Girls Alumni Program also provides support to ensure a higher completion rate at tertiary level schooling, and in securing job opportunities in their chosen fields of study.

Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said that she wanted Techno Girls to run the economy to show that, “the struggle by women in 1956 was not in vain.”

“Whatever degree you take, it opens doors – it is a key. It gives you the ability to use logic, the ability to analyze any situation and the ability to think scientifically,” Xingwana explained.

With the program’s success and popularity, the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities identified Techno Girls as a key government program in furthering goals for gender equity.

Moreover, Techno Girls has been expanded to all nine provinces of South Africa. Women empowerment and potential in STEM sectors is on its way in South Africa.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Education in South Africa
How important is education in South Africa? Education is often considered the great equalizer of society. When people have access to quality education, living conditions inevitably improve and economies grow. Although South Africa has relatively high enrollment rates, many students don’t have access to quality education.

After the fall of apartheid, Nelson Mandela sought to reinvent an education system that had categorically denied blacks a quality education in South Africa. Mandela’s reforms ended racial segregation and unlocked equal funding for all universities and schools.

South Africa has developed a progressive education system – at least in theory. According to UNICEF, South Africa spends more on education as a share of GDP than any other African nation, providing free and compulsory primary education to all children aged 7 to 15, regardless of race.

Despite these achievements, a 2013 study published by the World Economic Forum ranked South African 143rd out of 144 in effective education systems.

South African schools face a myriad of problems. 78 percent of them don’t have computers or libraries, and 27 percent don’t have running water.

In addition to this, South African public schools are riddled with low performance rates. UNICEF reports that only 12 to 31 percent of South African students reach proficiency in their coursework. Two thirds of South African young people aged 14 to 18 cannot find work because they don’t have the preparation they deserve.

Regrettably, many South African teachers also lack proficiency in the subjects they teach. As a result, most South African students do not meet international benchmarks for math and science. Long hours and a critical lack of basic school supplies put even greater strain on teachers and school staff.

A 2009 South African Department of Education study found that 5.8 percent of female secondary school students dropped out of school after becoming pregnant. Teenage pregnancy rates have only increased.

Furthermore, a study conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention found that 15.3 percent of South African primary school children had experienced violent assaults and robbery. Teachers and principals agree that children cannot learn in such an unsafe environment.

Prior to 1991, education in South Africa was segregated, with separate education systems for blacks and whites. Black South Africans were relegated to “Bantu” school systems, which promoted black subservience to whites. These institutions created unequal learning environments based on race. Many contemporary issues plaguing education in South Africa stem from this era of neglect and abuse.

It has been 22 years since the fall of apartheid, and positive change is slow but evident. In 2013, UNSECO reported a 95 percent literacy rate among South African school-aged youth. This number shows great improvement. Education in South Africa is not a lost cause, and it will improve as teachers gain competence and schools gain the funding they deserve.

According to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As a free and democratic South Africa rediscovers its identity, quality education can be afforded to the children of tomorrow.

Peter Nilson

Photo: Flickr

South Africa’s education system is badly managed and poorly equipped, with students performing far behind their African peers, according to World Policy Blog.

With the government failing to provide children with a decent education, private and fee-paying schools are becoming more popular. But not everyone can afford to access these superior schools. The City Press decided to calculate the cost of sending your child to one of these schools up to grade 12 in South Africa and here is what they found:

  • A private school costs approximately $225,700.
  • An upper-income school was estimated to cost around $41,000.
  • An average fee-paying school costs more than $15,000.

These figures were calculated based on a child who starts school in 2016 and finishes in 2028 — and include every necessity such as stationary, supplies, uniforms and boarding costs.

South Africa has struggled to provide affordable quality public education, but low-cost private schools are now on the rise and are providing alternatives to the high cost of education in South Africa.

Instead of private schools only available to the elite, low-cost private schools are providing education to middle and lower income families who feel the state education system is failing their children. According to the Economist, there are some low-cost private schools that cost as little as $1 per week.

Due to inadequate public schools, these low-cost private schools have a much bigger share of primary school pupils in developing countries than in developed ones. Elsewhere in Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, in particular, have also seen a large increase in the number of low-cost private schools opening, according to World Policy Blog.

Although the South African government has been criticized for not doing enough to address the issues with their education system, the expansion of these low-cost private schools provides the possibility of a quality education to students who cannot afford to attend elite private schools or even the average fee-paying government schools.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Business Tech, The Economist, World Policy Blog
Photo: Google Images

South Africa Mining TBOn Feb. 5, the Global Fund signed a $30 million grant to fight tuberculosis (TB) in the mining sector of South Africa.

The Global Fund, a multi-partner financial institution dedicated to fighting the spread of malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB, began its efforts in January 2015 by partnering with 10 global leaders. This meeting outlined an effective paradigm shift in the way TB is diagnosed and treated in the country’s mining sector, where TB incidence rates are at their highest.

South Africa is one of the world leaders in TB prevalence, reporting 450,000 cases of active TB in 2013, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Among this population are those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, a disease which affects nearly 20 percent of the country’s population and greatly increases a person’s susceptibility to TB.

Historically referred to as “consumption,” TB today is a deadly social disease, transmitted within the poor air quality of communal settings. In 2011, a landmark improvement to the diagnosis and treatment strategy, the GeneXpert, was introduced in South African prisons and urban areas. This state-of-the-art device speeds up diagnosis time from several weeks to several hours, marking an important step in early-stage intervention.

The Global Fund estimates that due to either a lack of resources, fear of stigma or inadequate diagnostic technology, roughly one-third of the nine million annual cases of TB are missed. New technology for early diagnosis makes up one of a few key steps toward an effective method of eradicating a disease that starts in poverty-stricken regions but can also threaten international security.

Rita Grant, senior advisor and member of the Developing Country NGO Delegation, has praised framework which seeks to combat multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), also known as Vank’s Disease. WHO states that MDR-TB arises in populations that fail to complete the whole course of treatment, allowing bacterial mutation and transmission of that mutation to those not previously infected with TB. Because those infected with MDR-TB have a higher resistance, treatment costs are higher and recovery time is longer.

The Global Fund grant will address the factors of the highly affected mining population in South Africa, as well as attempt to control disease mutations and emulate their findings for global preventative techniques for the future.

Nora Harless

Sources: allAfrica, The Global Fund, South African National Tuberculosis Association, Vaccine News Daily, World Health Organization
Photo: NewStatesman

MTN South AfricaMTN South Africa (Mobile Telephone Networks), part of a multinational telecommunication company operating in 21 countries across the world, is rewarding top performing students in rural schools across the country. The organization is honoring these studious teenagers with scholarships and laptops to enhance their education.

The beneficiaries of scholarships and 200 laptops include three top students in the LSEN (learners with special educational needs) category at rural schools. One of the elite learners, who is legally blind, will receive a personalized laptop with 10 GB of data.

The 18 scholarships will be rewarded to qualifying students per province, selected by the provincial education department. The bursaries will cover tuition, textbooks, pocket money, fees and other costs.

In an interview with It News Africa, Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager of the foundation, states that “MTN is [aware] of the socio-economic conditions that hamper academically gifted learners from furthering their studies.” She believes that “this gesture provides a lifeline to these students, providing them with hope for the future and an opportunity to break the vicious cycle of poverty and reach for their dreams.”

According to Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, MTN SA Foundation is dedicated to working in tandem with the South African government to support programs aimed at improving teaching and education in rural schools. The organization has been involved with improving the spread of knowledge and technology for over a decade.

Because the foundation works with impoverished locations that typically struggle to develop adequate places of learning, MTN SA usually creates programs that address student, teacher and teaching environmental needs.

Mtunzi-Hairwadzi also mentions in the interview that “the exceptional academic achievements of these learners is indicative of what hard work and focus can achieve.” The Foundation believes these rewards will act as an incentive and encourage even more students to excel at school. The general manager views the support from the Foundation as a “part of [the company’s] ongoing commitment to ensuring that [they] make a positive difference in the communities” where the company has a visible presence.

MTN South Africa aims to help develop a team of students that will eventually contribute to the growth and develop of the South African economy.

John Gilmore

Sources: IT News Africa, MTN 1, MTN 2
Photo: Tyballo’s Blog

Education System in South Africa
The City Press has reported a possible new tier education system in South Africa where students will be divided into three tiers based on their strengths and weaknesses.

According to Business Tech, students will be placed into one of three categories based on their assessed aptitude for each. The tiers are academic, technical occupational and technical vocational.

The academic tier will mirror the current matriculation program.

On the other hand, the technical occupational tier aims to produce students who can leave the education system in South Africa and enter the workplace immediately with skills such as spray painting, hairdressing and woodwork.

According to Mathanzima Mweli, Director General of DBE, “We will introduce these (technical occupational) subjects at grade four and will increase the number of schools offering the new subjects to hundreds or thousands.”

The technical vocational tier will include subjects such as engineering and technical drawing and focus on students who want to study trades. The technical vocational stream will offer 12 subjects.

The department of basic education hopes the new school system will result in 60 percent of students completing technical qualifications.

Moira de Roche, MD of Aligned4Learning, said, “There is no point in forcing a new learner who is good with their hands to do academic subjects. They end up failing and feeling useless, whereas they are good at many things. Hopefully, it will also result in less kids (and their parents) thinking the only option for them is a university.”

Education activist and founder of Partners4Possibility, Louise van Rhyn noted that the new tier system will enable young people to find fruitful careers by providing opportunities that are not solely focused on academic success.

Van Rhyn also said, “In addition to implementing this change, we also need to ensure that we still create opportunities for learners to participate in the knowledge economy, as this is a sure way out of poverty and these skills are critical for our future. We need a much higher percentage of learners with a solid foundation in maths and science.”

According to Business Tech, the new school system is being developed this year and will be tested in 58 schools in 2017.

Jordan Connell

Sources: All Africa, Business Tech, It Web
Photo: The Guardian

While Americans may enjoy the entertainment of recreational drones, in South Africa the devices serve an alternative purpose. Barry Mendelow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, has developed drones into what could be a life-saving delivery service.

Mendelow has dubbed his drone delivery service ‘e-Juba,’ inspired by carrier pigeons (iJuba in Zulu).

e-Juba would provide remote areas with essential medical supplies, including vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

The drones are not only designed for one-way deliveries but also allow users to send their own blood and DNA samples to labs for testing.

With this system, disease detection and diagnosis could take as little as a day. Without the drone delivery service, says Mendelow, current disease diagnosis takes up to six weeks. During this period, a patient’s condition could worsen or a contagious disease could be spread to others unknowingly.

This large window of time is due in large part to a general lack of infrastructure in rural areas. Unpaved roads, according to Mendelow, pose a significant challenge to patients that have to make their way from remote areas to labs for testing. E-Juba serves as a simple and convenient solution to the infrastructural obstacle.

Trials that Mendelow conducted demonstrated a high possibility for the drones’ success. 300 flights, each traveling about 30 kilometers, did not lose “a single cargo or artifact.”

The drones may prove especially beneficial to revolutionizing healthcare in South Africa, a country that the World Health Organization deems as having one of the “highest burdens” globally for Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV.

South Africa’s 2014 incidence of TB at 834 per 100,000 people. Compare this figure to France, with a 2014 estimate of nine per 100,000 people.

Mendelow’s project is close to coming to fruition. With the trials successfully conducted, all that he now requires is clearance by the South African Civil Aviation Authority to implement e-Juba as an authorized delivery system.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: Barry Mendelow, Barry Mendelow et al., National Health Laboratory Service, New Scientist
Photo: Google Images

According to The Guardian, “youth unemployment is a global issue,” as young people account for approximately 40 percent of the world’s unemployed. Of note, 90 percent of this demographic live in developing countries, such as South Africa.

Not surprisingly, one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals seeks to address this global issue by “substantially [reducing] the proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training” by 2020.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have already started to make a difference for unemployed youth in South Africa, where the youth unemployment rate stands at a staggering 50 percent. PPPs are working to provide young workers with government funded education, internship opportunities and technical services.

PPPs run projects between the private sector and the government, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and the private sector, or a combination of all three.

Zambian Youth Benefit

In Zambia for example, a PPP comprised of Unicef, Barclays and the Zambian government provided free courses focused on enterprise, entrepreneurship and communication skills.

According to The Guardian, Ernest Daka, a 22-year-old Zambian unemployed youth turned entrepreneur, credits a business and financial literacy course offered by this PPP as his motivation to become a self-starter.

Daka learned how to apply for a startup loan from a microfinance institution to purchase 50 chicks, a chicken coop, feed and charcoal.

The young entrepreneur began raising chickens after he learned more about local food supply and demand during the PPP course. Daka hired his brother as an employee and plans to package his chicken and eggs for grocery and restaurant sale in the future.

He has since repaid his loan in full and was able to pay for his brother’s school fees using profits from his business.

New Funding for PPPs

In 2014, the African Development Bank Group (AFDB) approved the financing of 48 new private sector operations with an investment of UA 1.59 billion. According to the AFDB, PPPs are one of the best ways for countries to foster development via power transport, water and sanitation and telecommunications.

As the desire for greater efficiency and better services grows, the availability of public financing resources diminishes. The South African government continues to promotes PPPs to make up for this lack of funding, improve the business environment and reduce the youth unemployment rate.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: African Development Bank Group, The Guardian, UN
Photo: Flickr

Social messaging app, WeChat recently introduced a digital wallet service in Johannesburg, South Africa.

With WeChat Wallet, users can securely store bank cards and make instant cash payments just as they would with a physical wallet. The new service also enables users to electronically send cash to friends or family.

In addition, WeChat Wallet also offers the use of three chip, PIN debit and credit cards and the capability to transact via cards verified by Visa and MasterCard.

WeChat, which is owned by Chinese juggernaut, Tencent has partnered with Standard Bank for the launch of WeChat Wallet.

When registering for the digital wallet, users automatically become Standard Bank Instant Money users, which makes it possible for those without bank accounts to use the service. Accountholders at other banks are also able to access WeChat Wallet.

Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa told IT News Africa, “The service is another way WeChat is merging the online and offline worlds, providing people with seamless payment integration in a single application. Now they won’t be inconvenienced if they forget their purses or money at home because everything they need is at their fingertips.”

WeChat Wallet is available to South Africans who are sixteen or older with a Valid ID who use iOS or Android phones. To register for the digital wallet service, all they have to do is log into WeChat, tap “wallet” then follow the step-by-step instructions.

To use the digital wallet service for in-store payments, customers simply need to scan the QR code located in stores that support this mobile payment platform and then enter the amount of their purchase into their phone. Users can even “cash in” and “cash out” via Instant Money vouchers at Standard Bank ATMs and other participating retailers.

According to Tencent, more than 200 million customers globally have added their bank cards to the mobile payment platform in November 2015.

Jordan Connell

Sources: NFC World, It News Africa