|Rising number of vulnerable children worrisome|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 22:04|
Lulu Brenda Harris
Sunday News correspondentHWANGE has over 8 800 orphans and vulnerable children — statistics that indicate how child-headed families are assuming elderly roles and children living in foster homes are facing difficulties meeting their basic needs such as food, school fees, clothing, clean water and housing.
Hwange Urban consists of 15 wards and has a total of 2 317 vulnerable children of which 63 percent are girls while 37 percent are boys.
These statistics were gathered from Baobab, Chibondo, Empumalanga, Colliery Low Density, Colliery No. 1, Colliery No. 1North, Colliery No 5, Colliery No 3, NRZ/Nguminja and Zesa/Ingagula.
Hwange Rural has a total of 6 528 vulnerable children according to statistics gathered from 19 wards.
These wards are Matetsi, Chidobe, Kachecheti, Nemananga, Chikandakubi, Mbiza, Jambezi, Sidinda, Mashala, Simangani, Kamativi, Nekabandama, Nekatambe, Makwandara, Silewu, Lupote, Mabale, Dete and Change.
A total of 54 percent are girls while 46 percent are boys. These statistics include double-orphaned children and single-orphaned children – these are children who lost either a maternal or paternal parent and vulnerable children exposed to danger.
Provincial Co-ordinator for Child Orphans, also Social Services Officer for Matabeleland North, Mr Macnon Chirinzepi, said this expose showed how children were heading families yet they were orphans or had no one to look after them and in some cases children were the ones looking after their parents or guardians.
The Social Services Officer said the reason of vulnerability differed with each household but ultimately all reasons led to children assuming elderly roles foregoing their own childhood stages.
“The causes of child-headed families differ. Some children lose their parents to death, other parents are disabled, while others migrate to other countries leaving behind their children,” he said.
Mr Chirinzepi said the social services department was involved in efforts to make sure someone checked in on the vulnerable children or offered some form of support.
“As social services we emphasise on some form of guardianship. It might be the neighbours or someone from the community throwing an eye on them. We believe the community has a role to play in making sure children are catered and provided for regardless of the circumstances,” he said.
Sunday News was in Hwange and spoke to Betty Mpofu (17) not real name, who together with her sister, Alice (19) care for their younger siblings.
Both parents are late but fortunately live in their family house they inherited.
Betty has three younger siblings, a boy aged 13, two girls aged 11 and five respectively.
The boy is now living with their grandmother in Kwekwe while her other younger sister was fortunate to receive school funding and learns in Nechibundu Primary School.
On the onset of the interview Betty appeared uneasy but managed to go through with the interview.
She said her father passed away in 2008 and her mother followed in March this year.
They live in a four-roomed house and tenants who pay $50 per month occupy the other two rooms.
“We share water and electricity bills. From the rent we buy food and other necessities needed in the house,” she said.
Betty said sometimes she and her siblings slept without having eaten anything, as they would have run out of money.
“Usually our tenants offer us what they have or our neighbours chip in here and there,” she said.
Betty’s late father used to work for Delta Beverages and when he passed on, his benefits were handed over to their mother but since she also died, they were no longer liable to receive anything.
She said another problem was when her mother was sick she accrued many expenses and left behind medical bills, which were yet to be paid.
Betty said they do have relatives living in Gweru, Harare and others in South Africa but are reluctant to look after them as they too have their own families to take care of. Betty no longer goes to school.
She is supposed to be writing her ordinary levels this year but dropped out of school last year in October when her mother became seriously ill.
Her mother failed to raise schools fees for her and her other siblings. Betty described how life without parents or guardians is rough because children are forced to grow suddenly and fail to indulge in liberties enjoyed by their peers.
“You learn how to deal with certain situations when your friends are enjoying themselves. It’s tough but I guess it’s how life is. Sometimes I think how life could be like if my parents were alive but I know I should be grateful that my siblings and I are fine and coping,” she said optimistically.
Betty has hopes of returning to school and studying to be nurse.