Wan­der­ing chil­dren are at risk

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ASANDA SOKANYILE

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.

asanda.sokanyile@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: AYANDA NDAMANE

The com­mu­nity is wor­ried about their chil­dren.

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