For thousands of children in the Eastern Cape, it’s a life of hardship; in the Chris Hani district alone, there are more than 3 000 child-headed homes. A lack of services and basic rights is prevalent, especially, in rural areas. The provincial government is reaching out to this vulnerable group.
Children have the right to human dignity and access to shelter, protection and food, but thousands are denied these rights. Two children from Beyele village do not know where their mother is. She left them with an elderly relative, who lives with three other children. They all rely on the woman’s old age grant. The two children do not have birth certificates and can’t register for a school.
A relative of theirs, Noawari Chwama, says the mother of the two children last came before the Easter weekend and they have not seen her again since.
“These children are suffering. They do not have a father and a mother. Their mother is roaming the streets of this town. They have no documents. She last came here just before the Easter weekend and we never saw here again. I use my social grant money to raise them and it is not enough.”
Thousands of children in the province face similar challenges. The provincial government is now engaging communities to tackle the issue head on. One such meeting was held in Cala in the Eastern Cape. Eastern Cape Premier Phumullo Masualle says that child labour is not consistent with children’s rights.
“What is said to be ukuthwala where children get married to elder men whilst they are under age is no different to child labour. It is not consistent to the rights of children. We do find out that we will need to do more to consent our communities to mobilise them about how to act appropriately. But we also need to educate the children about their rights.”
Children also had their say. One child, Siyolise Mayongo says that children must be given the opportunity to continue with their studies.
“Do not force a child into marriage. Children should be given the opportunity to continue with their studies. Children should be able to choose who they want to get married to when they are older. How will a child go to school when she is a wife? Is she going to wear long uniform?”
The aim is also to educate children about their rights and to empower them.