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Cycling through Khayelitsha

Cape Town is a city of contrasts. Just outside the downtown grid of skyscrapers and upscale restaurants lies the expansive Cape Flats area, where millions of residents live in a thick network of shacks and homes known as the townships. During the Apartheid era, the government evicted and segregated ethnic groups into designated townships around the city to separate races as well as opportunities. Apartheid ended nearly twenty years ago, but the townships remain strikingly similar to the conditions in 1994. No visit to Cape Town is complete without the perspective that a township provides, and Semester at Sea students experienced the townships frequently over the MV Explorer’s six-day stop in Cape Town.

On Day 5, a small group of students headed to Khayelitsha, the youngest and largest of Cape Town’s townships, for a bicycle ride. Bikes may sound like a strange way of seeing the community, but they’re the preferred mode of both transport and empowerment for local Sizwe Matoti.  Matoti is from the township and knows the hazards of growing up under the looming threat of gangs, drugs, and alcohol abuse. He’s remained in the area to keep kids off the streets through a successful hiking and biking club called the YEP! Clan, which stands for Youth Empowerment Project. His kids are now competition-level cyclists, and he’s more than happy to share the power of cycling by taking our students on a ride through the township.

Students traveled by bike through the dense community of over a million residents, pedaling past the expansive spider web of makeshift electric wires and an endless array of homes built from corrugated steel and reclaimed factory roofs. This bike trip was just one of many meaningful visits our students made to the townships, getting a firsthand look at cultural centers, cooking classes, HIV clinics, orphanages, soccer programs, and schools throughout the city. The MV Explorer sails away from Cape Town today, but thanks to these township visits the students will leave with a greater understanding of the complex history that shaped South Africa just a few decades ago.

Click here to learn more about Sizwe Matoti and his YEP! Clan cycling team.

Topics
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Life on Land

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