Development & Education

School Year Blog: Crashing the ultimate fashion show, a South African prom

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Credit: Anders Kelto
Seniors pose at the COSAT prom

A few weeks ago, I told my girlfriend that I was doing a story about the senior prom at the high school I’ve been profiling here in Cape Town. I started to explain the significance of the night – how it’s a rite of passage for many South Africans – but she cut me off.

“We’re going to prom together?” she asked excitedly. “Yay!”

The next thing I knew, I was digging out my suit (the only one I had lugged to Africa) and getting my hair cut. Caroline, my girlfriend, was trying on dresses and making a hair appointment. Neither of us had gone to our own senior proms, so we decided this was it.

Who cares if we were both 30-something Americans, and neither of us was even close to being in high school? It was time to look sharp.

We had heard that the prom was a big deal in South Africa’s low-income, black townships. But I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the fashion show we witnessed. Simply put, the kids at the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) went all out – and I was glad we weren’t under-dressed.

Here are some pics from the night. Enjoy!

This story is part of a year-long series, School Year: Learning, Poverty, and Success in a South African Township.

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    Credit: Anders Kelto
    Before the prom, a huge crowd gathered at the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT). As the seniors arrived -- many escorted by umbrella-carrying relatives or friends -- the crowd cheered wildly.
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    Before the prom, there was a lot of buzz about what Andile (right) would wear. The general consensus was that his leopard-print ascot and pleated pants did not disappoint.
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    Credit: Azola Maliti
    Students pose for a group photo.
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    Mr. Makumbe (center), an information technology teacher at COSAT, poses with two seniors whose outfits made quite a splash.
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    Credit: Azola Maliti
    Several students gave toasts at the prom.
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    Dinner options included prawns, kingklip, and lamb.
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    A wide range of shoe styles was on display -- some fiercer than others.
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    Credit: Azola Maliti
    Students packed the dance floor for much of the night and displayed an impressive range of choreographed group dances.
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    Many students said this was the first time they had ever eaten at a nice restaurant.
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    Reporter Anders Kelto and his girlfriend, Caroline, went to the COSAT prom. Neither had been to their own senior prom, so they figured this was a fitting substitute.

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