Wandering children are at risk
THOUSANDS of young children are roaming the city’s streets during the day instead of spending valuable time at early childhood development centres.
Chairperson of the Elsies River Early Childhood Development Forum Valda Walker claims there are 18 000 children who are not at crèches in the province. Walker said this is what puts children at risk of rape and abuse. She added that the rape and murder of 3- year- old Courtney Pieters last month could have been avoided had the little girl been at crèche while her parents were at work.
“Courtney was one of the children not in centres and who play around in parks, in the road or anywhere, sometimes without any adult supervision,” she said.
Courtney’s body was found in a shallow grave nine days after she went missing.
Mortimer Saunders, a family friend and tenant in her parents’ house, is in custody and faces two charges of rape and one of murder.
Walker attributed the problem to high crèche fees caused by delays in the partial subsidies from the Depart- ment of Social Development. A member of the Khayelitsha ECD forum, who preferred to remain anonymous, backed Walker’s claims and said they sometimes wait up to four months for the department to pay out grants.
MEC for Social Development Albert Fritz could not confirm the number of children not in ECDs but confirmed the delays in the partial subsidies.
“There have been individual cases and delays are usually caused by outstanding audit financial statements and progress reports, as stipulated in the contracts between ECD facilities with DSD,” he said.
Social development pays R15 a day per child at a registered ECD, this amounts to R3 960 per child a year. This amount is divided into three parts, 40% is for the nutrition of the child, another 40% goes to the salaries of staff and 20% is for operational costs.
A delay in these funds leads to an increase in fees, according to Walker.
“There are crèches in the area which charge R120 a week, groceries alone cost over R9 000 a month to feed the 158 children in my crèche so I understand why crèches have to increase their fees all the time,” she said.
Mother of two, Leandre Lodewyk, 29, from Pook se Bos informal settlement in Gatesville said she could not afford to send her 2-year-old son to crèche because she and her husband could not afford the fees.
“The nearest crèche from here costs R600 a month, plus the transport fare because it is quite a distance for me to walk a 2-year-old,” said Lodewyk.
She is a part-time domestic worker and her husband is a part-time driver.
They live in a three-room shack in the informal settle- ment off Pooke Road. The only stable source of income is the child support grant they get for their 2-year-old son, Lorenzo.
About a metre away from their home is an open field with tall grass and reeds. While Lodewyk said she trusts her neighbours as they are a close-knit neighbourhood of 136 homes, community leader Mieta Hofstander disagrees.
Hofstander fosters a 7-yearold girl and claims she was nearly raped by a teenage boy from the community.
“My retarded foster child was nearly molested by a boy in the area, he was already naked and made her play with his private parts,” she said. He was caught before he could go any further.
Hofstander said this was just one of many cases which occur in the neighbourhood during the time when children are meant to be at crèche or at school.
“None of the children who are meant to be at crèche around here are in a crèche. We have been in constant communication with the Department of Social Development about assisting us with a centre for these children but all our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”
Nonzaliseko Siyengo, 35, lives in Europe informal settlement near Gugulethu. She is unemployed and lives with her three children. She said that though there are crèches in the area, she could not afford to send her two children, aged 2 and 4, because “we have to manage finances wisely, their grant is all we have and most of it goes towards food and electricity, then I have to pay my eldest son’s transport to school. Crèche costs R250 a month and that would mean R500 for me and I don’t have that much money,” she said.
The community is worried about their children.