Day of the African Child – June 16 2018

These African children were not left behind

A sibling-headed household gets support

In 2018, the Day of the African Child is celebrated by placing emphasis on ensuring that no child in Africa is left behind, specifically those children that are not benefitting from Africa’s growth and development. Owing to circumstances beyond their control, too many girls in Africa must drop out of school. Too many children are living in precarious conditions without parental care, increasing their vulnerability and jeopardising their future. Many must find work to provide for their siblings.

Martha died in 2009, leaving her four children in the care of her elderly mother, Coraline. This turned out to be disastrous for the children who were already very used to hardship and hunger. These four children are now young adults and have a chance of a great future because they received the necessary support.

When Martha’s two girls were still little she left Swaziland for work and returned home years later with twin boys, Mathew* and Israel. Back home in Swaziland, Martha was now unemployed and she struggled to provide for her four children. Treasure, the eldest of the children, had to drop out of school after passing grade seven in primary school to look for work to support her mother and siblings. Fortunately, her hunt for work led her to a family that spared what they could to help her support her family, and they also put her back in school. They eventually decided to foster her and became her family.

Before Martha died, she had secured a piece of land and managed to build a two-roomed house made of sticks and mud with a thatched roof. After she died, the children left this house behind to move to their grandmother’s homestead. The children never felt quite welcome and, as a result, the two boys decided to go to live in the mud-and-stick house by themselves whilst teenager Girlie moved in with her boyfriend.

The children’s case was brought to the attention of the SOS family strengthening team in Nhlangano who support families in the community at risk of breaking down. Following assessments and home visits, it was established that the twins were living in appalling conditions. The two rooms were dilapidated, had no doors, floors or even windows and the the roof was worn out. The children slept on the ground without any meaningful protection or blankets. Moreover, the location of the two rooms was only accessible on foot. Nhlangano is known for plantations and huge forests. The children stayed in the deep forest, always in extreme danger of being attacked by snakes and other wild animals.

The SOS team approached the grandmother to talk about solutions. They decided that it was possible to move the children from the forest and relocate them closer to roads for easy access and protection. Community leaders and the local community-based organisation both played a huge role in facilitating these talks and the eventual move. 

A two-roomed house was then constructed for the siblings – one room for the boys and one for Treasure, who moved in with Mathew and Israel. The SOS team provided emotional and educational support, and immediately provided basic survival packages like food and clothes to help the children.

Treasure, now 28, completed her high school education, enrolled in a teaching course and completed her tertiary studies. The 21-year-old twins are in high school. Girlie, 25, still lives apart from her siblings but is very much part of their life now.

Photo: Alejandra Kaiser

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