Friday, August 29, 2008

When we fail our children

Children are too weak from hunger to go to school, this while the taxpayer is footing the bill for a comprehensive feeding scheme.

But once again this has been plundered by ANC fat cats.


IT IS the worst kind of failure that any parent can feel – the inability to feed their children.

But this is what Nowinner K ululekile had to admit when she kept her 16-year-old daughter Nolubabalo out of school for four days.

She wrote: “I would like to express my sincere apology for her failure to come to school on Friday. She didn’t have strength to go to school because there was no food because it was the fourth day they slept on empty stomachs. They were just drinking water. I then decided that all my children will not go to school. I really apologise ... it’s just that I didn’t know what to do.”

K ululekile and her family do not live in a far-flung village in the Eastern Cape’s hinterland, but on the doorstep of East London’s city centre. Her home is not to be found on a hilltop, but rather in the sprawling township of Mdantsane.

K ululekile, 59, who is unemployed and her 72-year-old husband maintain their six children on his R940 old age pension.

When our journalists visited their home, the K ululekiles’ cupboards were bare and their fridge empty.

But this is no exceptional case of extreme poverty. When the teachers at Nolubabalo’s school were alerted to her circumstances, they began an investigation at Philemon Ngcelwane High in Mdantsane’s NU9. They found that five other starving children had collapsed at school this year.

Admirably, the teachers chose to act. They collected money, received a donation of vegetables and started a soup kitchen.

But yesterday, the money ran out and they served just over 160 of the 800 pupils their last meal of vegetable soup and bread. In desperation, they called our newspaper, believing that we were their last resort.

The government’s school nutrition programme only applies to primary schools and the pupils of Philemon Ngcelwane therefore fall outside of this already precarious social support network.

The child support grant only applies to children under 14 years of age which means that teenagers are expected to fend for themselves.

The ANC’s Polokwane resolutions, guiding the ruling party into next year’s elections, accept that “beyond poverty alleviation, interventions must seek to develop exit programmes that capacitate households and communities to empower themselves. It is the duty of the developmental state to achieve this”.

They also undertake to “progressively expand the school nutrition programme to include high school learners in poorer communities”.

But while the new ANC government-in- waiting prepares itself for next year’s elections, there is no relief for children like Nolubabalo K ululekile. They will just have to starve.

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