Sarafina!: The Movie

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The Apartheid Era is undoubtedly one of the darkest times in the history of the African continent. The best tool that has told this story is the 1992 film ‘Sarafina’ which shows a story of struggle, beating the odds and fighting for what is rightfully one’s own. There were casualties along the way but in the end South Africa came out victorious and the very definition of ‘A rainbow nation’.

What are the social injustices and oppression situations that the students went through in their claim for freedom to neutral education and the eventual freedom of South Africa? What are some of the ways that a social worker would fit into this scenario and what can they do to help the oppressed characters in this story? In the Apartheid Era which began sometime around 1945 after the general elections, the ruling government sought ‘white supremacy’ laws that would empower the whites and oppress the minorities being the Indians, Coloreds and Blacks.This is the time that brought about passbooks and laws that ensured that they carried these passes at all times once admitted into the colony and must also gain some form of employment which is why most of them were subjected to doing hard labor and servant duties in the rich people’s homes. As the 1970’s crept in, a new breed of oppressed South Africans came to be and these were the school children. They were part of the June 16th 1977 infamous Sharpeville Massacre and later in the 1980’s as portrayed in Sarafina, the film and highly acclaimed musical.

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Sarafina: The Oppression, Social Injustice and Power Struggle in Apartheid South AfricaThe setting of this film was in Soweto, one of the largest projects, better known as ‘loxions’ in Africa found in the city of Johannesburg. The film tells the story of a schoolgirl, Sarafina, played by Leleti Khumalo, who lives with her siblings, aunt and uncle in times of hardships. She lives with them as her father died and her mother works in the far-off suburbs for a white family. The story is a narrative of a girl craving to see the day when her hero, Nelson Mandela, would be released from prison at the infamous Robben Island off the Cape Town coast.

Along with her school friends, they look for a way to make their stand known against the Apartheid government. The students openly protest but are met with brute force, resulting in the death of some of the students and their rebel teacher, Miss Mary Masombuka, played by Whoopi Goldberg who taught them that they should not be afraid of their past and must always stand for what they believe in as portrayed during the preparations for the school play which was going to be about Mandela being released.The oppression is seen in the harsh conditions that the characters in the film live in. One can also tell that the education system is squeezed and does not teach them all the facts, facts that could sow ideas in the children’s minds on how to retaliate.

Social injustice playa a major role in this film when we see Angelina, Sarafina’s mother being subjected to living in a small room at the back of the white family’s home yet they say she is like family.It is also shown when the children are tortured and even killed because the police and the government fear what they might do if oppressed for too long, along with the fact that their teacher, Miss Masombuka, died by jumping off the 10th floor of the police station and it is later implied that she was killed by the police. The Apartheid Government, through the police, was brutal and used any means necessary to gather information.This is seen when Constable Sabela beats up one of the students, Crocodile, as well as shooting another student, Guitar after he finds out that he had told his peers that Sabela was blackmailing him with his father’s life for information on the plans the students made to protest.

The students merely reacted based on what society dished out to them and as such, killed Constable Sabela. Assumptions and Understanding of the Characters The film, being a musical, has songs sang in the native languages of South Africa, being Xhosa and Zulu mostly, which emphasize the message in the story.Many have assumed that the violence in the film does not give and accurate retelling of the Apartheid story while others believe that the music derails the somber message in the film. I believe, however, that the characters in the film were within their rights to fight for their future free of an unjust government.

It is said that a few students in Soweto in 1977 were not pleased with classes forcefully being taught in Afrikaans and it is during a peaceful protest that the police brutally shot these children.This brought about nationwide protests in other high schools and universities alike. The police characters make you want to hate them but it is unfortunate that it is how things were in the period between 1945 and 1991. Any organizations and media avenues that were considered sympathetic to the cause were banned which means that the story of the violent oppression and injustice was not fully known to the world and this means that worse events may have happened but the rest of the world got to know about it a little too late which is heartbreaking.

The story is told as accurately as possible based on recounts from those that were witness and victim to this dark era in South Africa. The stories told by some of the imprisoned students of torture and punishment by the police who were basically prodding them for information proved that the government had seen the power that the students had in the struggle for a free nation and equal rights and this was evident by how a protest started by a school in Soweto sparked more strikes that included the most intellectual population, the university students.This part of the film is heart wrenching but as it proceeds offers the viewer hope that better days are ahead, of which they did indeed come to pass and a united nation got to be rebuilt. It is my belief that the music in this film was used to not only further tell the story of the school children like in the case of ‘Freedom is Coming Tomorrow’ sang at the funeral of the shot students and at the end of the film after Sarafina is released from prison and still looks forward with optimism to the day that Nelson Mandela would walk out of Robben Island prison.

The song at the beginning of the film where Sarafina imagines herself as a star is an opiate or a distraction from the harsh life she, her family and the oppressed communities were going through. Songs sang after the lynching of Constable Sabela, in the vans on the way to prison and in the jail cells were telling the story further of their frustration, suffering and ache for justice and freedom. Role of Identity Discrimination or Diversity in the Film There was a clear line drawn between the White population and the other communities in Apartheid South Africa.Discrimination prevented Sarafina from having a much needed parent around her as he mother could only work so far from home and as a servant.

A memorable scene in film that highlighted what the government thought of the oppressed is when the interrogator informs Sarafina that she does not care if she is young and that if ‘they’ in reference to the blacks try to attack them, then they will kill them and then proceeds to say that the black Africa should not think that the whites will wait for them to roll on them after which she is tortured as thousands of her friends were.The students seemed to be the ones fighting and contributing towards a free South Africa. There is a scene where students go to the pub, locally known as a ‘sheebeen’ to tell the drunks that instead of fighting for their country, they are busy ‘pissing’ their lives away. Sarafina’s mother knows that in as much as she wants to fight for independence, she must take care of her family first which is why she is not ashamed to work as a servant and this shows a string sense of identity and responsibility.

There are a number of prominent Black South Africans that sacrificed a lot for their freedom. The most famous, of course, being Nelson Mandela and another being Steve Biko who was detained in 1977, severely beaten and was still transported over 900 miles in a van from Eastern Cape’s Port Elizabeth to Gauteng’s Pretoria but died of head injuries. However, the police initially said that he had died due to a hunger strike then later changed to say that he had hit his head during a fight. The Apartheid government with people like P.

W Botha at the forefront, passed laws like the Natives Land Act of 1913 that segregated the land according to race as well as laws that required the oppressed communities to carry around a number of documents especially passbooks when entering colony territory and must seek employment immediately. (Worden,1994 , p. 83-85).Discrimination took on a larger stand when laws like the 1949 Mixed Marriages Act and the 1950 Immorality Act which ‘prohibited marriage and extramarital across racial borders’ (Beinart, 2001 , p.

47) There is a scene in the film when the school is burned down in the dead of the night and the police say that when they burn the school they are letting their future go up in flames and also says that it is their future which is discriminatory considering the education system was highly censored and strictly taught in Afrikaans thus limiting their futures to working for the Afrikaans population. Role of a Social Worker in the Apartheid ScenarioA social worker is not only meant to help avoid risk but must assess the risk probabilities and informing the necessary groups of the risks. They should try to keep them as far from harm as possible while at the same time acknowledging their human rights but also keeping as many innocent groups as far from danger as well. In a situation like this, a social worker would be able to help counsel the younger children to help them get over the violence around them as seen when children are screaming as their older siblings are bundled into police vans in the dead of the night.

A social worker in the Apartheid era would have not really been able to intervene based on the harsh punishment dished to those that did not tow the government line. One could, however, be there to help medically based on their experience and area of expertise by helping to treat the wounded as well as talking to the children about the dangers of confronting the authorities, which in this case may have not been taken too kindly as many would believe that the social worker is a government ‘messenger’.They could engage in advocacy in community development, consultation and even social education for those involved directly and indirectly. As tough as this may sound, a social worker knows the risks and would be able to stand firm alongside the oppressed and needy in that given society.

There are 4 levels of intervention that a social worker can be involved. There is the first level that involves general work that involves general population universal services. Level 2 involves vulnerable communities or society groups whereby a social worker will step in on a consultancy basis.Level 3 is where groups that may be exposed to higher vulnerability like in the case of offering shelter and care of children and at this point a social worker would be brought in at an earlier stage for possible intervention and it has been argued that this is one of the most crucial moments in a crisis to involve them.

In a situation like one portrayed in Sarafina, this is where level 4 of social work is involved. This is when there is social breakdown and people that need care are present and in this case crisis intervention and possible statutory powers of a social worker will come in handy.ReferencesBeck, R. (2000) The History of South Africa.

CT: Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. ( p.129-137)Beinart, W. (2001).

Twentieth Century South Africa. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.Learning from a Legacy of Hate: Sarafina. Retrieved from Ball State University (2010, March 26th) from http://www., R (1999). A Concise History of South Africa.

Cambridge: University Press.Singh, A. (1992). Sarafina!.

Running time: 110 minutes. Rated PG-13.Social Work Scotland. (2006/02/07)The Report of the Role of the Social Worker Subgroup (2006/02/07).

Retrieved from Social Work Scotland. The Vision of the Social Worker in the 21st Century. Retrieved on 2010, March 26th, from http://www.socialworkscotland., N.( 1994).

The Making of Modern South Africa. Massachussets: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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