On Sunday I was part of the group that took part in a tour of the township of Katutura in Windhoek. Patrick, who grew up in Katutura and has since completed his master’s degree in International Educational Development, gave us the tour. He was able to provide perspective on many of the issues people in Katutura face.
The tour took us through Katutura, which was the section of the town that was segregated for the black population during the apartheid. The area of Windhoek visibly has less wealth, and by North American standards a large area of it would be considered a shantytown. There is an entire hillside where the housing is corrugated sheet metal shacks built closely together. Patrick explained that even though the housing situation looked very poor, the community was quite strong as they relied on each other for many necessities, such as sharing access to water. They even had a community watch for security. While we drove through Katutura there were large volumes of people that were milling around doing various things.
We then visited the presidential residence and office in one of the richest neighborhoods in Windhoek. The houses in the neighborhood all had spacious properties and large fences. It was quite interesting to see the disparity within the different neighborhoods in Windhoek, but it was also interesting to see the disparity in the sense of community. Even in the poorest sections of Katutura there were people interacting with each other, while in the wealthy areas we barely saw any people. Patrick commented on the fact that in the rich areas there was no need to interact with neighbors; people had everything they needed in their mansions, and the only way they left their gates was in a car.
I was personally able to take part in the Building Community in New Orleans ucalgarycares trip in 2013. I was able to see firsthand that New Orleans has similar economic disparity between areas like the lower ninth ward and their wealthy neighborhoods. New Orleans also has disparity between the educational opportunities available to children in areas like the lower ninth ward compared to other areas. Educational disparity is also present in Windhoek. In Katutura the education provided to students is often very poor. At the BNC there are children who have been offered scholarships to go to top rated schools in Windhoek, but some have no means of getting there. The access to education for children in poor communities is very similar in Windhoek and New Orleans.
It is interesting to discover that a nation in Africa can have similar social issues to a major city in North America. Despite the fact that both cities have serious disparity, in both cities the communities play a large role. The communities are able to provide services that may not be available in the poorer neighborhoods. People work together to help each other and improve their condition as a whole. The township tour left me thinking about what it means to build communities, and what it would take to develop the sense of community we live in back home in Calgary.