Chil­dren in ru­ral ar­eas face bleak fu­ture

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­

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.

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