Teen Reflects on Visit to Workingmen's Quarters

AS the child in Lere Chapole battles to become a man, the external world is coming into sharper focus. "I have been watching the news and reading newspapers recently to find out what is going on in the world," Lere says. "What fascinates me most is the political world and how there are always two sides to an argument.

"I don't understand the need for the violence," he says. "If there is a problem, it should be sorted out between the leaders - it should not be the people that suffer. Many of the people don't know what they are dying for. They live in a world that is so complicated that they don't understand."

During a day spent with this reporter, Lere visited the men-only hostel in the nearby township of Tokoza. Men's hostels are not an integral part of black communities in the townships, and it is not unusual that a 16-year-old youth had never been inside one. They are not places for children.

The conditions at the Tokoza hostels were typical: overcrowded, a lack of proper cooking and washing facilities, and signs of decades of neglect.

The visit clearly touched Lere deeply and he grappled with the problem for the rest of the day. He has lived in humble township conditions, but always with family and a sense of belonging.

"I feel sorry for them," he said. "When I compare it with my home I realize I just couldn't live there. I wouldn't survive.

"I am still trying to work out how the problem could be solved so that everyone can live in good conditions."

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