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Shantytown Poem (Anonymous)

Shantytown Poem (Anonymous)


(Stanza 1)

Superior on the veld upon that basic

And significantly from streets and lights and cars and trucks

And bare of trees, and bare of grass,

Jabavu sleeps beneath the stars

(Stanza 2)

Jabavu sleeps.

The young children cough.

Cold creeps up, the challenging night cold,

The earth is restricted in just its grasp,

The highveld chilly with out tender rain,

Dry as the sand, rough as a rasp

The frost rimmed night time invades the shacks.

Through dusty ground

Via rocky ground

By way of freezing ground, the night time cold creeps.

In cotton blankets, rags and sacks

Beneath the stars Jabavu sleeps.

(Stanza 3)

One working day Jabavu will awake

To greet a new and shining working day

The audio of coughing will grow to be

The children’s laughter as they play

In parks with flowers wherever dust now swirls

In robust-walled properties with warmth and light.

But for tonight Jabavu sleeps.

Jabavu sleeps. The stars are shiny.


The poem was published anonymously. It was later on found out that Hilda Bernstein, who participated in the Communist Bash and was an anti-apartheid activist, wrote this poem.

The poem is set in Jabavu township in Johannesburg. Jabavu was a shantytown to the south of Johannesburg in the larger sized space recognized as Soweto. These days, shantytowns are identified as informal settlements or squatter camps. South African shantytowns have normally housed the poorest of the poor. Persons create makeshift households out of corrugated iron and whatsoever resources they can obtain. Jabavu, like most other black townships of the time, had no trees, electrical energy or roadways. It is dry, dusty, and exceptionally cold throughout wintertime. It is quite complicated for the people today of Jabavu to guard them selves from health issues and the cold. In the winter, the chilly is oppressive. To preserve out the chilly, the men and women include by themselves with slim blankets, rags, and old sacks. The author hopes that when apartheid finishes, Jabavu (and other townships) will be a far better place to dwell.

Now, Jabavu is continue to not a wealthy component of Soweto, but it has electrical energy and generally tarred roadways. The majority of residences are uncomplicated, but they are solidly developed with walls and yards. There are a quantity of universities that provide the area as nicely as clusters of retailers and other services. Trees have been planted and there is a environmentally friendly, open up area identified as Jabavu Park.

In advance of leaving Robben Island, Mandela understood that if he did not place the previous guiding him and forgive, he would under no circumstances be free. So his promise of flexibility to the folks was directed at all South Africans – the rainbow nation. With independence arrives accountability. If individuals want to laugh and sense secure and have the dignity that comes with currently being free of charge, they need to perform tough to market democracy. Liberation is for every person and so all South Africans will need to act responsibly, and respect everyone’s correct to liberty and dignity.

On the lookout at a democratic South Africa nowadays, the dilemma to question is: are the the vast majority of oppressed definitely liberated?


It is challenging to say with certainty when this poem was penned as we do not know who the poet is. The poem was definitely penned for the duration of Apartheid in South Africa, when townships experienced no electrical power or streets. A lot of shacks had been crafted by men and women coming to Johannesburg seeking for perform.

Kind of poem

This poem has been explained as staying no cost verse. It is a social commentary on excessive poverty and raises the issues of the children’s wellness and flexibility. It talks of how neglected this area is in phrases of standard services like electric power. It is worried with the absence of inexperienced, protected spaces in which small children can perform. The poem is satirical, criticizing the apartheid government’s rulers and their apartheid regulations.


The speaker is unnamed (perhaps the poet). The speaker uses the 3rd human being narrative. He describes the disorders in Jabavu and what he sees for the long term. He addresses modern society as a entire so that everyone can recognize the suffering of folks in shantytowns and be involved in bringing about optimistic change.


The voice is of an individual who is aware of Jabavu very well and has likely lived there. He understands all the challenges and suffering of the people today, particularly in winter season. He has a eyesight for considerably improved dwelling situations in the upcoming. His tone is descriptive, despairing (unfortunate and concerned) and then hopeful.


The poem is divided into a few stanzas. Jabavu is described in each stanza. The first stanza describes Jabavu’s isolation from the city (“considerably from streets and lights and automobiles”). Jabavu has no trees or grass for the reason that it is not secured (“beneath the stars”). The 2nd verse goes into even more depth with regards to the people’s hardship above the winter season. They are both chilly and unwell. The last verse transports us to the hopeful long run of a effectively-developed and cared-for Jabavu. It has progressed into a destination for healthful youngsters to engage in in lovely parks. Individuals are living in dignified dwellings with energy. They are all safe and sound and cozy. The speaker offers a rosy image of his hopes for the long term.


Discrimination in South Africa

During Apartheid, black folks have been not allowed to individual houses near the cities. Townships were designed outdoors of towns and towns for them. They stayed in these parts and labored in the metropolis/city in the course of the working day. There have been no basic products and services presented to these locations. The government neglected the people residing in these areas. Most companies have been made in city and city suburbs for the white folks only.

Poverty in South Africa

In the course of Apartheid, the huge vast majority of black folks near cities and metropolitan areas lived less than harsh disorders. As a lot more and additional people moved to be close to the town for work, the townships filled with men and women who experienced no right housing. Many lived in casual settlements in open places. They also created shacks in other people’s yards. The dwelling situations in townships ended up extremely unhealthy, primarily for kids.

The improvement of the themes

Shantytown is one more phrase for an informal settlement. The poet describes the severe dwelling conditions of a shantytown in Soweto, identified as Jabavu. He is aware of Jabavu well and probably lived there himself. The situations in Jabavu were being very comparable to lots of other casual settlements in South Africa at the time. The speaker describes the emptiness of the space. The land is entirely barren: ‘Dry as the sand’ (line 10) and ‘dusty’ (line 12) and ‘rocky’ (line 13). Nothing at all grows there in wintertime. It is ‘bare of trees, and bare of grass’ (line 3). It is located on the highveld, with exceptionally chilly winters. Little ones have turn into ill for the reason that of these disorders. Individuals come across it extremely hard to safeguard themselves from the chilly which ‘invades the shacks’ (line 11).

Their slender ‘cotton blankets, rags and sacks’ (line 15) present no warmth towards the chilly. Individuals are dwelling in poverty and are unable to afford thick, heat blankets. Inspite of what the poet sees and maybe also activities – the poverty and awful conditions – he is filled with hope. He goals of a little something superior. He finishes the poem on a notice of optimism when he describes how much improved existence in Jabavu could be in the future.


Stanza 1: Jabavu sleeps (dormancy)

Pretty much, the individuals in Jabavu are asleep at evening. The darkish night symbolizes apartheid. The cold symbolizes the white government’s lack of worry or empathy for the oppressed. Throughout apartheid, the black men and women did not experience flexibility and they did not have the exact rights as white people today. Townships like Jabavu had been far from resources of work and lacked the infrastructure and products and services for sustainable progress. They lacked enough sanitation, drinking water, and refuse elimination expert services. There were being no decent homes, faculties, or clinics. Poverty, ailment, and malnutrition ended up rife. At to start with, they accepted their destiny. This was the interval of dormancy, inactivity – snooze.

Stanza 2: By means of dusty ground/As a result of rocky ground/Via freezing ground

Poverty, hardship and struggling is emphasized in the impression of the dusty, rocky and freezing floor upon which the people rest inside of their shacks.

Stanza 3: Jabavu will awake (hope)

The anti-apartheid movement eventually led to the release of Nelson Mandela from jail. It is this anti-apartheid movement that we figuratively connect with their awakening. They started out to fight towards the principles of apartheid. Some grew to become activists preventing for democracy. As the initial president of the new democratic governing administration, Nelson Mandela promised the black people today independence. This would assurance them human dignity. In his inauguration speech, Nelson Mandela instructed the folks of South Africa that it is their appropriate to be cost-free and that is what the new authorities would constantly attempt to obtain. In his speech, he promised the individuals that they would be absolutely free from want, starvation, deprivation, ignorance, suppression, and anxiety. Independence from want indicates that the individuals of South Africa would no longer are living in poverty. The black folks would not are living in townships of deficiency like Jabavu – in which there are no roadways, energy, clinics, and many others. This intended that they would be absolutely free to realize or get whatsoever they wanted or desired. They would also no lengthier be deprived of something. They would be equipped to have whatever material advantages that they regarded as staying primary requirements in society. They would also have the liberty to be educated. Equality would assure inclusive top quality training for all. They would be capable to opt for their occupation and obtain their goals. Nelson Mandela promised them that they would no for a longer time be suppressed and they would no more time live in dread. It was crucial to Nelson Mandela that anyone lived in independence so that they would have human dignity. This is what we comprehend in the initially line of stanza 3 when the poet writes “Just one day Jabavu will awake”.

Stanza 3: laughter

“The audio of coughing will grow to be/The children’s laughter as they play”. The kid’s sickness will come to be overall health. This incorporates mental wellness – not keeping grudges keeping on to the earlier does not totally free you. It will make you bitter.

Stanza 3: potent-walled houses

Protection. The people today hope to reside a existence devoid of fear.

Figurative language


The poet repeats particular text or phrases in the poem.

“And bare of trees, and bare of grass” (line 3). Practically there is absolutely nothing at all increasing in the spot. Figuratively the persons are lousy – they have almost nothing.

The term “cold” is applied four times through the poem and emphasizes the severe chilly. Seeking to retain warm is all that the persons can assume about at evening. In strains 12 to 14, the poet repeats ‘through’ and ‘ground’. The chilly is so intense and impressive that very little stops it, not even dust or rocks. In strains 14 and 15, the poet emphasises the chilly all over again: “the evening cold creeps./In cotton blankets”.

“Jabavu sleeps” is repeated five instances at the starting and finish of stanzas. The to start with two stanzas describe the township at evening all through winter. People are desperately seeking to rest but struggle simply because it is so chilly. In reality, Jabavu and its men and women are not sleeping. It is only in stanza three that we have an understanding of that the poet is employing the phrase “sleeps” symbolically. The speaker believes that Jabavu’s future will be a fantastic improvement on its previous. When that occurs, it will be as if the township will have “woken up” from its very long rest of poverty and suffering. These harsh ailments are short-term, only “for tonight” (line 23). The last line expresses this hope by repeating ‘Jabavu sleeps’, but we now know that the stars previously mentioned are ‘bright’ symbols of hope.


Conjunctions are recurring.

“And considerably from streets and lights and autos/And bare of trees, and bare of grass”.


The exact same text at the commence of a line are repeated.

“And considerably from streets and lights and automobiles/And bare of trees, and bare of grass”.

“Jabavu sleeps” at the stop of stanza 1 and “Jabavu sleeps” at the start off of stanza 2.


Non-living points are provided human attributes.

Jabavu, the shantytown, is in comparison to a human being who is asleep and will wake up ‘One day’ (line 17). Jabavu will be capable to “greet” every person just as people say “fantastic early morning” to every other at the start out of a “new and shining day” (line 18). The sleep is short term and the poet is completely sure that Jabavu will be equipped to “awake” to a much better planet in the long run.

The winter season chilly is also personified by the poet. It is explained as unstoppable since it “creeps” or crawls into everything. It is like an enemy that attacks and “invades” (line 11) a town and its residences.


Two matters are explained as obtaining one thing in widespread. The words ‘like’ or ‘as’ are made use of.

Line 10 has two similes:

“Dry as the sand” compares the severe dryness of the chilly winter to sand for the reason that there is no rain.

“rough as a rasp” compares the chilly to a metal instrument rubbing from the pores and skin. In other words and phrases, the chilly of winter is so severe that it feels agonizing.


The preliminary consonant sounds of words and phrases are repeated.

In stanza 1, the f and b sounds are recurring: “significantly from streets… ” “bare of trees, and bare of grass”.

In stanza 2, the c and r sounds are repeated.

“The little ones cough./Chilly creeps up”. This tough sound emphasises the harshness of the disorders in Jabavu.

In line 10, the r sound is repeated: “tough as rasp”.

In stanza 3, the p audio is recurring: “engage in/in parks”.