Girl (9) forced to be a nanny
Mom who blocked daughter going to school could be jailed for three months
A NINE-YEAR-OLD girl has been forced by her farmworker mother to drop out of school and care for her siblings.
The girl was forced into being a baby-sitter after her 15-year-old brother moved out of home when their mother told him to drop out and care for his siblings while she works long hours at a tomato farm.
The little girl passed Grade 2 last year and was looking forward to moving into her new class at Brandvlei Primary in Randfontein on the West Rand. She passed with flying colours, despite going to school barefoot and sometimes hungry.
Now, instead of learning, the girl is forced to care for her two siblings aged two and five years. Her brother now lives with relatives and attends a local high school.
The mother's shifts at the farm start at 6am and she is not back home until after dark.
The mother earns a child support grant for her three children and is yet to apply for the two-year-old.
Keeping the girl at home goes against the Department of Basic Education's policy as it is compulsory for children aged up to 15 years to be in school.
Gauteng education spokesman Charles Phahlane said the mother could face between three and six months in jail.
"There are no-fee schools to ensure that all children are in school. If parents do not want to send their children to school we send social workers to them and ask them to send the children to school," he said.
"If they continue to refuse we send them a final warning and then take them to court."
Education psychologist at the University of Johannesburg Lara Ragpot said the child was missing critical time in school.
"The first four years of school are important. These are formative years where a child learns basic skills of writing and sums. If they skip one of these years they will never catch up."
The Department of Social Development has undertaken to visit the family to assess the situation.
The mother, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, says she did not want her child to stay at home.
"I did not want this to happen, (but) it is circumstances beyond my control. I promise, as soon as I get money I will buy her shoes and she will be back at school."
But a close relative of the child said: "It is not right. I told her that she was going to get into trouble. I asked her why the child was not in school and why she was looking after her siblings".
The Human Rights Commission has undertaken to probe the matter.
It is in discussion with other stakeholders, including the government and Parliament, to find suitable ways to address persistent inequalities that prevent poor children from going to school .
Commission spokesman Vincent Moaga said although South Africa had the most progressive policies relating to children's rights, weaknesses and gaps in the implementation of policy continued to confine many children to a life characterised by indignity and poverty.
"We will engage the Gauteng department of social development. The department is best placed to provide answers with regard to the plight of the children mentioned in the story," said Moaga.