a VirtualTourist member
I've been accepted to study at Nelson Mandela University, PE for 2013 and will be bringing my son who is in the 5th grade. I am looking for suitable and safe neighborhoods we could live in. My son's father is very concerned about crime and racism...is it really THAT bad in PE? I've read that there is crime and also that PE is known as the "Friendly City." Any information you can give me for perspective that I can share with him would be great. Thank you so much for your help.
As with all queries of this type, it would really help to know where you come from, as perceptions of crime are relative. Judging by your reference to '5th grade', I assume that it's somewhere in North America?
Crime rates in South Africa get a lot of bad press internationally ( much of it overhyped), and there's no doubt that crime continues to be a problem. Obviously violent crime is a particular concern, and unfortunately it's a feature of South African society of which we aren't be very proud: probably the crime stats for PE would not seem overly high if you were coming from Washington D.C., but would horrify you if you were coming from rural Kansas.
The official stats are so unreliable that I won't even both referring you to them - suffice to say that they're certainly underreporting and the fact that the police force continues to refuse pointblank any external auditing for their stats is front page news here today.
So, practically, PE is considerably smaller than Jo'burg, Cape Town and Durban, and has lower crime rates. However, the fact that it's known as 'The Friendly City' is little more than a marketing slogan, so don't be hoodwinked by that. It's a pleasant place, and the people I know from PE speak fondly of it and would like to return if it offered them attractive employment opportunities (it's quite a small city, and outside the car industry, the port, tourist and service/retail sector there aren't many major employers and salaries are generally a good deal lower than in the bigger cities). If you like the beach and water sports, then you and your son will be in your element, and there is lots to see and do in the interior as well.
Petty crime and theft are endemic in any society like ours that is sharply divided between 'haves' and 'have nots', so you'll find yourself having to be much more viligent about things like keeping your car locked when you drive, not leaving valuables in view when it's parked and domestic security (high walls, razorwire or electric fences and alarm systems are pretty well standard). Also expect to spend proportionately much more on insurance than you'd probably be used to. Security should certainly be one of your prime considerations when you decide where to live: many South Africans prefer 'cluster' or 'townhouse' complexes with shared perimeter and gate security for this reason.
Violent crime against your person is much more random and harder to control. Choosing a secure place to live and taking sensible precautions when you drive will go a long way towards ensuring your safety - many of the attacks result from armed housebreakers or hijackers who panic. If it's any consolation, the vast majority of violent crime in South Africa is perpetrated by people against people they know (family, acquaintances) with relatively little against strangers - although of course there are always the unfortunate few.
That's the scary stuff over. Should it stop you taking up this opportunity - I would say not (although I'd be interested to know what NMU offers that is so extraordinary as to tempt you to study this far from home). However, your son's father is correct to be concerned, and it would be prudent both in terms of protecting yourself/your son and managing that relationship to consider the steps you'll take to make sure you don't become a victim of crime.
I would not recommend staying in standard student accommodation if you have a child. Rather look for a suburb within an easy commute from NMU - just bear in mind that South Africa has virtually no public transport/school bus system, so wherever you live, you'll need to drive yourself to varsity and drop your son to/from school (or set up some sort of lift club with other parents).
One aspect you'll need to think through is where your son will go to school and what you'll do for aftercare (since local schools finish in the early afternoon). With few exceptions, government schools are not good and I would not recommend them: they are generally overcrowded and poorly resourced and discipline is often a problem. I would strongly recommend that you look at enrolling your son in a private school - most will offer an aftercare programme which will supervise your son's homework and allow him to play under secure circumstances. Obviously you'll need to factor this into your costing.
Unfortunately I can't help you with specific queries about suburbs or schools, as although I have travelled there on business and pleasure, I've never lived there.
I'm not sure why racism might be an issue? Obviously we have a history that has been characterised by institutionalised racism, but things have changed very significantly in the last 20 years. South Africans are generally very open, friendly and frank, and I doubt that your race (be it colour or nationality) will be an issue. However, you should be prepared for the fact that if you're coming from overseas - particularly the US - the automatic assumption will be that you're rich! ;)
Hope this helps and please feel free to revert shoudl you ahve any further queries.
Follow this link for a list of private schools in PE: saprivateschools.co.za/Citie...
I would say that you should ideally be looking at a school that teaches an international curriculum, so that your son won't have too much of a shock when he transfers back into your home education system. Becaus eof our cultural diversity, South African education is heavily focused on languages - in that province, probably English, Afrikaans and Xhosa - two of which are likely to be of limited use to him in the future, and by his age (which I assume is 10-11), he'll already be quite far behind languagewise.
Once you've identified the schools that you're interested in - and confirmed that there are places available for 2013 (not a given) - then you can plot their position and the location of NMU on a map of PE and use that as the basis for identifying suburbs that are conveniently located.
Hope this helps.
Obvious the original poster was so hugely interested in the responses to her posting that she never even bothered to come back.
Sometimes I don't know why we bother!
Well if it is any consolation, I have read both of your posts and am very grateful for your extraordinary efforts to accurately inform on the topic. I have been asked to answer this same question (with a few variations) for a student coming from the US to NMU. You have helped me and them a great deal. Thank you