Thandi* is 20 years old, unemployed and a single mother of two. She does not have an ID book so cannot apply for a child grant. She has to sell her body to make money and goes from one boyfriend to another to ensure that she and her children have a place to stay. Thandi’s story is just one of the hundreds to come out of Diepsloot in Johannesburg and informal settlements like it across South Africa.
“Many women in Diepsloot are not empowered, which results in negligence of their children. They have to rely on boyfriends for survival, and they often have to choose between the boyfriend and their children,” comments Maureen Muka, principal of Bambi Day Care in Diepsloot. She currently looks after 33 children during the day, providing a safe place for them to grow, learn and play.
Bambi Day Care is one of 899 child care and Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres that Joint Aid Management South Africa (JAM SA) supports by providing a highly nutritious porridge each school day. 44 000 children now receive a 50g portion of this Corn Soya Sugar Plus (CSS+) porridge, which provides them with 75% of their daily micro-nutrient requirements.
Muka says that there are not enough care and ECD facilities for the number of children in the overcrowded Diepsloot community. “We are trying our best but there are still lots of children roaming the streets without care.” She wishes that Government would consider building these much-needed centres as part of its increased focus on ECD.
With the recent cases of child abuse and negligence to come out of Diepsloot, children’s safety must become a national priority.
At JAM SA, we believe that child care centres play a vital role in being places of protection and safety for young children. “The work JAM does in improving child care centres provides a place where children can be, and feel, safe,” comments David Brown, Chief Operating Officer at JAM International. “A place where they are provided with nutrition, where they are stimulated, receive encouragement and support. A place where they commence an exciting journey into learning. A place where they can establish a solid foundation on which they can build,” he adds.
While JAM SA’s focus is on the children, the parents, particularly the mothers, also need to be empowered. “These mothers need counselling, a place of safety to review their lives, skills development and support so they can regain their self-confidence,” says Muka.
Many young mothers feel helpless and fall into a cycle of abuse just to survive. “Thandi, for example, sees no way towards the future except through selling her body. She has taken the high-risk tolerance route of earning money through sex. The result is that her children are suffering without IDs, birth certificates etc. and so cannot access grants which at least might go some way towards helping her to take better care of her children,” comments Martyn Foot, Operations Manager at JAM SA.
“As you know, this is only one cause of child abuse but I do believe a large number of cases have a root cause in poverty,” he adds.
The social welfare system is also letting our children down. “The people who are supposed to be helping, like the social workers and police, do not seem to be doing their jobs properly,” comments Muka, who is also part of her local community policing forum. She has tried to report various cases of abuse, negligence and abandonment to the relevant authorities but has just been sent from one to the other and back again.
“There are many many problems in Diepsloot and we are losing hope. We need a big intervention,” pleads Muka.
“Each child has the right to protection, safety, nutrition and education. Without investing in our children, we will not be investing for a better future,” concludes Brown.
For just R360, you can feed a child at a child care centre like Bambi Day Care, for a year. Visit www.jamsa.co.za to donate online or sms ‘JAM’ to 42181 to donate R30 to help feed a child for a month.
*not her real name