MTHOKO Njoko of KwaSomkhele in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal, had a dream ... he wanted to grow up to be successful one day.
But a childbirth deformity in his right ear has left him partially deaf. The ear is so disfigured that it is almost nonexistent.
Mthoko, 7, is a Grade 1 pupil at the Somkhele Primary School.
His mother, Nontando Njoko, says she gave birth to Mthoko at home seven years ago and later went to a local clinic.
"He was born like this," she says. "So the clinic staff referred me to KwaHlabisa Provincial Hospital.
"The doctors who checked him at the hospital said he was fine and that if there was a need for an operation I would have to pay 50 percent of whatever amount would be needed.
"The other half would be paid by the hospital, they told me. But I did not have any money since neither I nor Mthoko's father is employed," Njoko says.
She says the doctors told her that they would have to reconstruct the deformed ear so that it looked normal.
"Because of financial constraints nothing was done. But seven years later I am beginning to get worried that this might inconvenience him as he grows older, though he does not seem to feel any pain.
"But he might feel abnormal and other children might tease him. We all know how it feels to be different from others."
Mthoko's school principal, Zanele Ndlela, says though the boy leads a normal life she is concerned about his performance.
"He is not performing well at school but it is still too early to attribute it to his deformity.
"He hears, though not as well as other pupils. But I don't want to rush to conclusions since he is still young.
"And as a parent I am concerned about the implications this might have when he grows older."