Is the situation of Johannes in Kaffir Boy typical of a child in South Africa or in the Third World?

Here we summarize the most important findings about child labour and education.

Child labour

Kaffir Boy (during apartheid)
South Africa (after apartheid)
Third World
In the book there are only a few passages relating to child labour.
2.63 million children between 5 and 14 work, mostly for their families.
Approximately 250 million children between 5 and 14 work. The highest percentage (>40 %)
in Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nepa and Bhutan.
Helping parents with houshold chores or little jobs to finance
school books or fees.
Poverty, corruption of authorities and high HIV/AIDS rate.
Poverty, poor education (no other choices), poor health care, corruption of authorities; children are cheap labour. Worldwide demand for cheap products


Kaffir Boy (during apartheid)
South Africa (after apartheid)
Third World
School is not free. There are strict rules and hard punishment for breaking them. Children just get a minimum of training. Some teachers are incompetent.
Johannes' mother is illiterate.
Rebellions at schools during the 1976 riots. Demonstrations for better education.
School is obligatory for all South Africans between the age of 7 to 15. All pupils have access to some form of education.
Parents have to pay a fee if they can. Lack of well-trained teachers and principals.
Peaceful racial integration in schools.
More than 75 million children cannot attend a primary school, half of them girls. There are 776 million illiterates.
Documents, which are hard to obtain, are needed to enter school. The family's origin is important. Fees and books are expensive but the family is poor. Johannes has to earn some extra money.
High HIV/AIDS-rate among teachers, inappropriate materials and not enough classrooms. - High expenditure on education but inefficient use of money.
School system is dysfunctional to a great extent. Success of pupils depends on individual efforts of principals and teachers.
HIV/AIDS-rate, insufficient budgets, classrooms and well-trained teaching staff, school fees.


Kaffir Boy's experiences were typical of black children during apartheid. The whites deliberately did not grant black children a decent education. The new black government realises that education is the key to a prosperous future for all. Since 1994 enormous efforts have been made to give every child in South Africa - black or white - a fair chance to obtain a good education. So far, these efforts have not been successful. In South Africa considerable sectors of education are hardly any better than those in other developing countries.

Since apartheid poor children have had to make a financial contribution to their family budget by carrying out menial jobs. However, child labour in the formal sector of economy has never been an issue in South Africa - contrary to other Third World countries.