Bhekanani Children

Here are some examples of the background of the children who attend Bhekanani Care & Support Centre Food for Learning Scheme.  Their names have been changed to protect their identity. (and the iamges are of other children who attend the centre.)

Bhekakani Support and Care Centre Children 5Nozipo is 10 years old she lives in a one room rondavel  – a typical Zulu dwelling which is a circular  with a conical thatched roof – with her mother and three younger siblings.  Her day begins early 4:30-5am where she does her first chore of the day, fetching water from the community standpipe 3 kms from her house. On her return Nozipo assists her mother in getting the smaller children washed and dressed.  She then sets out on the 10kms walk to the primary school. No breakfast in her stomach and with the likelihood of nothing to eat until the evening she has become used to the feeling hungry all the time, the grumbling pain in her stomach almost goes unnoticed now – almost.

Bhekakani Support and Care Centre Children 2Siyabonga is 15 years old, he loves football and longs to play for the South African nation team, Bafana Bafana one day.  He also enjoys school, however he is only in Grade 5, many years behind where he should be for his age, because like many children in rural South Africa Siyabonga has had to retake a year.  Siyabonga struggles to concentrate at school often feeling dizzy and faint because he hasn’t eaten anything since the previous evening when his gogo (grandmother) gave him a small plate of samp and beans. It just isn’t enough for a growing teenager.  But he doesn’t complain he knows his gogo has 7 people to feed each day on her meagre state pension. Siyabonga lost his parents three years ago and lives with his younger sister and 5 cousins – also orphans, at least he knows his gogo loves and cares for him, she tells him to work hard at school because, she says, when she is gone he will need to get a job to care for the family.  Yet Siyabonga finds it so hard to concentrate at school.

Bhekakani Support and Care Centre Children 3Happiness is a seven year old girl small for her age; she was given her name by her mother because her elder two siblings died just before she was born and Happiness’ birth had brought her mother such joy.  Sadly however, Happiness has only known sadness and loss in her short life.  Her mother suffered from HIV/AIDS and died when Happiness was just two years old.  After staying with various family members for period of time she was finally fostered by an aunt, a distant relative on her mother’s side. She is not happy at all, as her foster carer really doesn’t care for her.  Her school uniform is old and has holes in the sleeves; she tried to be careful when she is made to wash her clothes in the stream each Friday not to damage and make the holes bigger.  She gets little or no help with her school work from home and sometimes her foster carer keeps her off school so she can care for her own baby when she goes to work, she loves this little boy, but misses school and her friends.

Bhekakani Support and Care Centre Children 4Nhlankanipo and Nobukhle are brother and sister, Nhlankanipo is the oldest and like all big brothers looks out for his little sister.  They live with their mother and gogo (grandmother) in a tiny two roomed house which leaks when it rains – and it rains almost every day in the summer.   The two have become used to living in damp clothes and sleeping on a damp mattress on the floor.  The children’s mother is sick they can see she is getting weaker, they don’t ask questions but they sense that something is not right as then often find their gogo sitting in tears at their mother’s bedside.  There is so much the children want to say to their mother and grandmother but they seem preoccupied most of the time.  Still, there is a new programme starting nearby where they get a hot meal so at least that is something good.

Bhekakani Support and Care Centre Children 1Fakhile is a bright 15 year old, she loves school and enjoys learning, especially maths. However, when school finishes she is always the last to leave and walks slowly the 9kms back home.  Fakhile knows however that the work really starts once she reaches the family home.  First fetching water from the stream which takes an hour, and she has to be so carefully climbing back up the hill to her home, every drop is so precious.  Then there is the firewood to collect, she hates this job most of all as she feels so vulnerable alone in the bushes, other children have spoken of being hurt by men who drink at the local shebeen (bar), she tries to collect as much as she can before it gets too dark.  On getting home for the third time that afternoon she then has to cook a meal for her older brothers and younger sisters, the meelie meal is nearly all gone and the beans finished three days ago.  Its hard being the eldest girl in a family, if only the boys would help more.  Life has been such hard work since their mother died of TB three months ago.