According to a recent report released by Statistics South Africa, Child poverty in South Africa: A Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis, more than 6 out of 10 (62,1%) children aged 0–17 years were multidimensionally poor.

Child poverty and deprivation hinders the physical, psychological and social development of a child.

In his recently presented economic recovery plan, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a number of ways to rebuild the economy and slowly eradicate food insecurity in South Africa over the next five years. This is because it became a topical issue when the effects of lockdown caused many to lose their jobs and to become food insecure.  

In a report done by eNCA a grade 10 pupil Mahlatse Mothiba relies on her religion to bring her a source of hope and comfort when there is no money available to buy food. She is parented by a single mother who is unemployed, like many South African children. 

She says:

“I’ll speak to Receded and pray that maybe he will give my mother strength that she can buy things for us, he can give her some job so that she can work and give us something to eat.”

“Sometimes I feel like school can open everyday, because when I go to school I don’t feel that hunger, I don’t feel that pressure of not having food and I feel like I am like every child in the school.”

She describes her life as being simple when she goes to school. On weekends however she faces the challenges of hunger, as her mother is not able to provide food for her. 

Mothiba’s neighbour, who is in grade 12, orphaned and raised by his grandmother faces the same challenges as her but uses this hunger as motivation that he will one day live in better circumstances. 

He says:

“I always tell myself that when I make it in life I will put my granny first before anything.”

At the outreach centre in their neighbourhood the teenagers congregate and share their pain of hunger. One of them describes their experience in the classroom at school as unpleasant, as they cannot focus on what the teacher is saying but rather on what their next meal will be and where it will come from. 

She said:

“It’s very difficult for a parent to look at their child and their child is hungry and you have nothing to give them. I know the struggle, I am not a parent, but I know the struggle because I’ve seen in my mother’s eyes. I’ve seen it in my little brother’s eyes when he’s hungry and I have nothing to give to him.”

Food insecurity has affected the mental health of these students, with one student who has health issues saying that hunger had an impact on her hospitilization when she fell ill. 

Some of the children take home the little food they receive at the outreach centre to share with their families. 

The outreach centre says that while schools are operational they service around 1100 children but when schools close they service more than 1500 children twice a day. 

Social auxiliary worker, Rebecca Ledwaba assesses the living conditions of the children. 

“They are neglected they don’t find support. Other families will find domestic violence whereby a mother and father are always fighting, so they[the children] isolate themselves.”

-Rebecca Ledwaba, Social auxiliary worker 

 “Community takes part in the way of raising these children. So if they are judged by the community because of their poverty [and] their background it also demotivates them.”

-Rebecca Ledwaba, Social auxiliary worker 

 Despite the horrible circumstances these teenagers are forced to face, all of them have ambitions of giving back and starting initiatives to help people who face the same challenges they do. 

The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé