17 September 2001

South Africa: Destitute Kids Drop Out of School

THREE children face the enormous challenge of caring for themselves after their terminally-ill mother was admitted to hospital, leaving them destitute.

It is barely a year since their father - the sole-bread winner - died, entrusting the children to his bedridden wife, who could hardly bath, feed or do a anything for herself.

Bongani Shange (18) of Protea Glen, Soweto, had to assume the parental responsibility of bringing up his younger siblings, Sandile (16) and Girlie (13), without any experience or resources.

This has taken its toll on them and is affecting their education.

The children have missed a year of school and they are without hope of returning to school without financial support.

The former Grade 11 pupil at Nirvana Secondary School, Bongani said: "We started suffering when my father died last year.

"Things got worse when we ran out of the little money he had left us. I had to drop out of school in April this year because there was no money. My mother is so sick, it is difficult for her to talk. She has been in and out of hospital."

Sandile and Girlie also had to leave school in May, when their unemployed mother became bedridden and the money ran out.

"I had to care for my mother when she could no longer do anything for herself. I cooked, washed and cleaned for the family. I bathed her, helped her to the toilet and fed her," said Girlie.

Sowetan visited the family with home-base caregiver Ms Carol Dtyandtyi of Ikageng Itireleng, who was called to assist.

"The children are aware that their mother does not have long to live. She has also asked a friend to keep an eye on them. The older boy, who cares for them, is a child himself. They need counselling to cope," Dtyandtyi said. Family friend Mr Joel Rathabane said: "It is sad that relatives of both parents haven't helped the children. They have not called or visited the children since the burial of their father."

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