Child-headed families are norm in Wesselton

Child-headed families are a norm in South Africa and Wesselton is not exempt to this not new normal.

According to Wikipedia, a child-headed family or child-headed household is a family in which a child has become the head of the household.

The child, usually the eldest, has to provide for the family and the HIV/AIDS epidemic has led to many situations where both parents have died and left behind a family of orphans.

According to a general household survey done by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) in 2015, there are about 90 000 children in 50 000 child-headed households in the country.

Unfortunately, that number is increasing by the year.

In some cases, relatives of the children adopt them after the parents die.

This is not the case with Ms Vuyisile Ayanda Phakathi.

At just 16 years old, she has had to fend for herself when her mother passed away in 2016.

With no birth certificate and identity documents, Vuyisile is realistically a statistic and is one of many children heading households in Wesselton.

Vuyisile is now 19 years old and all she has, are dreams of the future that could have been.

Having left her school, Lindile Secondary School, in Grade 8 to take care of her ill mother, she has no hope for the future.

The youngest of three siblings, she is often left for months on end by herself in the four corners of her low-cost house, which her mother left them, in Khayelihle.

With no identity documents and no income in sight, Ms Phakathi is helped by her neighbours and leaders of the community to get by in the month.

Ms Phakathi has attempted numerous times to get government grants but to no avail.

Her dream is to go back to school, complete grade 12 and hopes to study further to be a social worker to help all the other children in her situation.

“It is but dream and seeing as I have nothing in this world, I still have my dreams,” Ms Phakathi said.

Ms Phakathi is not alone in this struggle as Ms Duduzile Buthelezi from Ethembeni Informal Settlement is also facing a similar situation, having to raise her 15-year-old brother and her 18-month-old son.

At just 20 years old, Ms Buthelezi is the head of her family after their mother passed away after an ilness in 2016 when she was 17 years old.

Back then, with no source of income, Ms Buthelezi had to leave school in Morgenzon and move to Ermelo to raise her then 12-year-old sibling.

This family of three survives on her baby boy’s child grant money, a measly R390.

Despite the hopelessness of her situation, Ms Buthelezi perseveres, doing odd jobs around her neighbourhood to beef up the money coming in.

“I mostly do laundry for my neighbours and charge them for washing and ironing their clothes. That money goes a long way,” Ms Buthelezi said.

Her dream is to complete her grade 12 and one day become a nurse.

Stats SA say this vulnerable group of children have to deal with emotional strain and is more likely to be abused and exploited.

A fate that is likely to happen to the two women.

Ms Phakathi and Buthelezi’s stories are just two of many told in Wesselton and they hope they will break free from being a statistic.

 

  AUTHOR
Amanda Mthembu
Journalist

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