Children in rural areas face bleak future
Meet 10-month-old Pretty Mvambo, a village “yellow bone”.
The beautiful girl is the first child of single mum Amanda (21), a second-year public relations student at King Sabata Dalindyebo College for further education and training, located in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.
Pretty lives 60km away in Mkxotsheni village in Libode, where she was born.
Her grandparents, Nosakhele (49) and Zwelibanzi (57), who take care of her, agree that she is a bundle of joy, “playful and naughty”. But they differ when it comes to their career aspirations for her.
Nosakhele hopes that Pretty will choose to become a nurse.
“I want her to be a nurse to help this impoverished community. I wanted to be a nurse myself, but I had to drop out of school. With Pretty things could be different,” she said.
Zwelibanzi would like to see her become an accountant – the first in the family.
“I think she has a bright future ahead of her. By just looking at her I am filled with a sense of hope that she is going to achieve something big in life,” said the proud grandfather.
However, unlike most children born in urban areas – which come with a host of amenities and resources to stimulate a child from a young age – rural Mkxotsheni is a place of poverty and desperation. The village is 30km away from Libode, a rural town situated between Mthatha and Port St Johns.
Pretty’s upbringing is already tough. Her grandparents have her R350 monthly grant, together with that of her two cousins, as their only source of income. “Neither of us work and our older children do not have steady jobs,” Nosakhele said. “They rely on odd jobs and send whatever they can to us here at home.”
Of Pretty’s mother, Nosakhele said that she was studying thanks to a student financial aid grant.
“It is a relief, because we would not have been able to afford to send her to school and look after her child at the same time,” said Nosakhele.
At the village, the closest healthcare facility to Pretty’s home is Makhotyana Clinic, 5km away.
Nosakhele says when Pretty gets sick, sometimes in the middle of the night, they have to hire a car to take her to the clinic. But because it is a rural clinic and underresourced, at times they find that there is no medication and, as a result, are forced to travel to the next hospital, situated 30km away on an undeveloped, gravel road.
Unlike many other places, especially urban centres where parks, playgrounds and malls are taken for granted, in Pretty’s surroundings, no such amenities exist.
The closest schools to her home, a kilometre away, are Sinethemba Primary School and Nqwiliso Junior Secondary School.
Pretty’s grandparents wish that she had been born in a different environment.
“We love her so much. We wish she could get opportunities such as those enjoyed by children in cities.
“We hope her mother will finish her studies soon and get a decent job, so she can take Pretty to a place where she will blossom.
“We take each day as it comes. As long as the children have something to eat, we are happy. We are living for them now,” said Nosakhele.
“We can go to bed on empty stomachs; we will survive. Children are a blessing no matter the circumstances.”
Born and raised in the village herself, she did not want her grandchild to be “derailed” by the limited resources it offered.
The Mvambo family plants crops such as maize and vegetables, and has small livestock from which to eke out a living.
Pretty, who has been playful throughout the interview in the family’s lounge, waves me goodbye with a beautiful smile as I leave her home, wondering at her uncertain future.