Teenager acts as eyes of her blind parents
CHILDHOOD was far from conventional for Nyanga East teenager Noxolo Magengenene. At five she was injecting her blind mother with insulin and at seven she was doing the family shopping to give her father a break.
Now, at 18, the Grade 11 pupil at ID Mkize High cares not only for her mother, but also for her father who went blind four years ago, following an accident at work in which a nail shot into his eye, which then became infected and left him blind in both eyes. Her day starts at 3am. “We live in a one-room house and I have to wake up that early to get everyone ready. The first person to bath is my mom; I need to help her iron her clothes and pack her lunch box.”
She also helps her father get ready for the day – he stays at home – before getting herself ready. Then she starts the 30-minute walk to school because the family cannot afford the taxi fare.
Noxolo is an only child, and although she’s come to terms with her role as carer, she admits that fitting in time for her studies isn’t easy.
Noxolo’s mother, Nosipho Magengenene, was blind when she met her father, Louis Magengenene. Noxolo was born in 1998 and the family lived with an uncle and aunt until her aunt died.
Although Noxolo was sent to live in the Eastern Cape with another aunt when she was just 10 months old, her mother brought her back to Cape Town in 2001 because she missed her too much.
“I wanted Noxolo to know me and get used to the idea that I am blind,” she said.
Noxolo’s tough home circum- stances weren’t helped when she was in primary school and children teased her about her situation. At Mkhayiseli Primary School, she recalled how often she was bullied, and how children laughed at her. She was so intimidated that she never raised her hand in class for fear they would laugh at her.
Her mother has not, however, let her blindness keep her homebound. And although she doesn’t earn a set salary, has she trained as a masseuse and works at the Light & Healing Centre in Tokai. They fetch her on work days.
The biggest blow to the family came in 2012 with her father Louis’s accident, which left him blind too.
Noxolo was 14 at the time, and had to also take on her father’s responsibilities in the home. Effectively, she became the parent. It’s very difficult, the teenager admits.
“When I go back home, I take care of the house and prepare food for all of us. Only when I have finished all my responsibilities can I start with my homework. But sometimes I’m so tired that I just end up falling asleep.”
Noxolo believes that if the family lived in a bigger home, that would be a start to a different life.
“But we always make the best of our situation. There’s nothing else we can do,” she said. Noxolo still has dreams though. “My goal is to study at UCT so I can become a chartered accountant,” she said.
Noxolo Magengenene, centre, looks after her blind parents, Louis and Nosipho.