ugly face of poverty

A family of 16 in the Makholweni area of Nongoma that survives only on a granny's pension and child support grants for six children, epitomises the harsh reality of poverty.

A family of 16 in the Makholweni area of Nongoma that survives only on a granny's pension and child support grants for six children, epitomises the harsh reality of poverty.

Their plight has come to light after statistics showed that 3,1million KwaZulu-Natal inhabitants go to bed hungry.

One of the children is mentally handicapped.

She is aged 17 and has been doing Grade 4 for four years because the family cannot afford to send her to a school for children with special needs.

Her grandmother, Beatrice Hlatshwayo, 68, says she is tired and disillusioned.

She says the hardship of looking after the orphaned children and her grandchildren is weighing her down.

"These children don't have parents and are my sole responsibility.

"The R1010 pension I receive a month is absolutely nothing. It gets finished before the end of the week because we are a big family. It is unbearable. The child grants go towards school fees and other needs," says Hlatshwayo.

She says nine of the 15 children are at school.

"I have to deduct from the grants to buy uniforms for those attending school and pay a school fee of R100 a child and this means a total of R900 for the nine. It's an uphill battle."

Her eldest granddaughter, Lungile Simelane, 23, whose mother died in 2000, says she is concerned about the welfare of her 17-year-old sister, Ntobeko.

"At her age, she should be near to finishing her schooling but she is still stuck in Grade 4. My worry is what would happen to her if our granny were to die."

Simelane said they would appreciate any help from anyone who can assist her sister get to a special school for children with the same disability like hers.

"My main worry is that she might get pregnant or drop out of school because other children tease her about her age."

Professor Bonke Dumisa described poverty as one of the main concerns for the government.

"We have millions of South Africans now who depend on one form of social grant or the other.

"At the same time we have the department of social development, which is doing absolutely nothing to develop people.

" We must advocate for more tax-paying people because it is through tax that the country can be able to have infrastructural development, which in turn would increase more sustainable jobs," Dumisa said.

He said dishing out food parcels was not a solution.

"There's no way we can keep on dishing out food parcels, but we should rather create an environment suitable for jobs."

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