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- People of Africa - 5/7 -


the most ignorant. But the Congo lands are very large, and there are many different peoples; they often move their villages, and because they hate one another they fight whenever they get the chance. So these people are still very ignorant and miserable. When they find out that it is better to be peaceful and work to help each other, then they will be able to grow wise and strong like the other Central African people in Uganda, and like the dark-skinned people of South Africa whom we shall read about in the next chapter.

VI ----------- THE MINE-WORKERS OF SOUTH AFRICA

1. The Cooler Land of the South

The Congo rivers and another great river called the Zambezi stretch right across Africa from east to west. North of this the country is called Central Africa, about some of whose people we have been reading. South of it across the Zambezi lies South Africa. East and west of this land is the salt sea, on the east called the Indian Ocean, on the west the Atlantic Ocean. As we travel south the country gets narrower and narrower, until the two great oceans meet at the Cape of Good Hope. Near the Congo and the Zambezi towards Central Africa the sun is very hot, but as we journey southwards it gets cooler. When we reach the colder lands of the south we find that the grass and maize do not grow so tall, and that there are no great forests. For long distances the land stretches as far as we can see, covered with short grass, but there are no trees. This kind of country is called "veld" in South Africa. There are some waterless deserts here, too, but none so large as the Sahara in North Africa. In other parts there are rivers, though some of them dry up in the summer and only have water in the rainy season. In South Africa, as in Central Africa, it rains some months of the year and is dry the others.

2. Black and White

In South Africa there are two races of people living side by side. First, there are dark-skinned Africans like those of Uganda and the Congo. These belong to many tribes, each speaking its own language. Secondly, there are many Europeans who, about three hundred years ago, began to come across the great salt sea to live in South Africa. Their own countries in Europe were too small for all the people in them, but South Africa is so large that there was plenty of room. These Europeans live in houses of brick or stone, and wear the same kind of clothes which are worn by the people in Europe. Their skins are lighter-coloured than even those of the Egyptians and Arabs of North Africa, and their hair is straight and often very fair. There are two chief European peoples in South Africa, the English and the Dutch. These speak different languages, but many of them can speak both. Europeans, as perhaps you know, are very clever at making machines of iron to work for them. They have made motor-cars to carry them quickly along ordinary roads, and another machine called an "engine" which draws many cars on its own road, which is made of two iron rails.

Among the African people of South Africa there are many different customs, but most people live in their own villages very much like those of Central Africa. Some tribes keep great herds of cattle, which find plenty of food on the grassy plains of the "veldt." Many have learned to copy European customs, especially those living near the great European towns. Some go long distances to work in these towns, especially in places where gold or other valuable things are found under the ground in the "mines." It is about these men who work on the mines that we will read now.

3. Work in the Mines

When men first found gold in the ground it was near the surface, and was not very difficult to get. But when this had all been taken, they had to dig deeper and deeper, until at last they found it easier to cut out roads and rooms far down underneath the ground, and to look for the gold among the earth and stones they found there. Perhaps you wonder how the miners get so deep down in the earth every day. There are no steps, but they get into a kind of cage called a "lift," which slips down on a rope skip into a deep hole called a "shaft," to where they want to work. It is a wonderful machine, something like a motor-car, only it goes down into the earth instead of along the top. When the men get out of the skip down in the mine, there are many different roads in it, and each man has to go to his own part to work. When he reaches his place he has to drill holes in the rock for the dynamite which breaks up the rock, and the loose stones are taken away along the roads to the lift and then up to the top. There it is stamped with great hammers into dust, and washed, until the gold-dust is separated from the rest. There are thousands of men, both underground and at the top, always at work at the mines.

Down in the mines it is always dark because the sunlight cannot get down there, and so the people have to use lanterns. In the larger openings there are lamps fixed to the walls and ceilings lighted by "electricity." Although it is dark below the ground, we must not think it is cold. On the contrary, it is very hot and difficult to breathe, because there is no wind, so that the bad air does not get cleared away. It is hot and stuffy, like a house where people have been sleeping all night with no windows open. When people first made mines, a great many died because of the bad air and because of fires, but now they have machines which blow good air down into the ground, and electric and other lamps which do not set fire to things easily, and so there are not many people killed in the mines now. Nevertheless, it is very hard and tiring work, and men are often ill because of the dust which fills the air they breathe. So the Europeans to whom the mines belong pay for doctors and hospitals where the sick can be cared for until they are well.

Many valuable minerals, besides gold, are found in South Africa, but the chief mines are for gold, diamonds, and coal. Diamonds are beautiful stones, clear like water, which flash red, blue, and green when they are turned about. They are very hard, and are sometimes used to cut glass. But they are valuable because European and Indian ladies will pay large prices for them, as they like to wear them as ornaments. Coal is a hard, black, shiny mineral used for burning. It makes better fires than wood, and burns much longer. These three--gold, diamonds, and coal--are the chief things found in mines in South Africa. But in other countries men find iron and silver and copper (of which pennies are made), and tin and salt, and many other useful things, in mines dug deep under the ground.

4. How the Miners Live

People often come from very long distances to work in the diamond mines at Kimberley and in the gold mines at Johannesburg. Sometimes they walk, but in South Africa there are railways and trains to take people to all the large towns, and a person can travel in one day by train as far as he could walk in three or four days.

Very few people spend all their lives at the mines. Most of the workers come for six months or a year, because they want money for clothes or food, as well as to buy cattle to pay the dowry for the girls they wish to marry. When they arrive at the mines, after their long journey, their names are written in a book as miners, and they are given places where they can live. If the men are single they live together in a large compound, which is a place enclosed by walls and gates. In these compounds there are houses where the men sleep, and places where they can do their washing, and the European mine masters provide people to clean these houses and to do the cooking.

If the workman has a wife he is given a house in a mine village, called a "location." A location or a compound is like a village with a great number of houses placed close together along straight roads. The houses are sometimes built of stones or bricks, but more often of corrugated iron.

In each location there are hundreds of people who have come to work at the mines for a few months from different parts of South Africa. They are all strangers to each other and speak many different languages. Most of them try to copy the dress of Europeans; but as European clothes are very expensive to buy and soon wear out, the natives often look ragged and dirty in them.

These native workers in the mines are supplied with food, such as maize, corn, and meal; but there are shops in the locations and compounds where they can buy other food, such as tea, coffee, sugar, and bread, and where they can also get clothes and other European things.

There are hospitals with doctors and nurses at all the mines to attend to the sick and the injured. There are also schools for the children in the location. It is difficult to teach in these schools because the children speak different languages, and their parents only stay for a short time. But a great many do learn to read, write, to do sums, and to sew.

The country near the mines is very often dry and dusty. There are no fields nor trees, unless planted by Europeans.

There are many laws regulating the life and work of the native miner; for example, he must go to work every day unless the doctor says he is too ill to do so. At night every one must be in the location, unless he be given a letter, which is called a "pass," from his master giving the reason why he is not in the location.

5. Strict Laws for Miners

The reason for these laws is that all these people are far away from their homes, and often no one can speak their language. Their relations and chiefs are far away and cannot help them, and so the Government has to make laws to prevent bad people robbing and perhaps killing them. Wherever there is a great deal of money, there are always thieves and bad people. So the Europeans who own the mines and pay the workmen make these laws to protect their workmen, until their time on the mines is finished, and they can go home to their own chiefs again. There are police ready to see that everyone obeys the laws, and if they find bad people or thieves they take them to a police-court and lock them up.

In all the other chapters we have read about people living in their own homes with their own relations. But in this chapter we read about Africans who leave their homes to work on the mines. They work hard and live a very different life from that lived in their village. They see many different people of other countries, hear many languages, and find out many new things. But no one wants to make his home there. High wages are paid for hard work, but everything is strange and different, and each one longs for his home. So everyone is glad when at last his work is done and his wages paid, and he is free to go back to his own village and the people he loves. We must remember that South Africa is a very large country with a great many Africans in it. Large numbers do go to work on the mines for a time, as we have been reading, but we must not forget that all these men have their homes in villages scattered all over that great country. In these villages there are chiefs and customs very much like those of Central Africa.


People of Africa - 5/7

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