In Tafelsig a 14-year-old boy will, for the first time in his life, enter mainstream schooling at Khanya Primary School in Portland this week.
This is according to Morishia Fortuin, co-ordinator of the Isibindi programme, which is, geared towards uplifting children and their families who live in Hyde Park, Kilimanjaro, Lost City and Tafelsig.
Isibindi, launched in June 2015, is run by the disaster relief organisation the Mustadafin Foundation.
“We work within the life spaces of children and their families, who experience academic problems; exposure to substance abuse; anti-social behaviour; overcrowding in the home with up to 17 people living in one shared space,” she said.
The everyday lives of children living in Tafelsig are, to some extent, controlled by gang-controlled territories which hinder their right to freedom of movement and so the organisation also deals with the looming threat of gang recruitment.
“Our focus is on providing children-centred holistic care in conjunction with the help of four family childcare workers,” she said.
Ms Fortuin said these children are living in poor conditions. “These council houses are so small that these children can’t change their minds in it. It leaves them without any privacy and without the sanctity of their own rooms to work through any emotional issues they are dealing with,” she said.
She said widespread unemployment only compounded the problem.
Backyard dweller Gashiefa Reagan pays R1 000 a month to stay in a wendy house. “I don’t have any money left after I pay my rent. It’s very difficult to live under these conditions,” she explained.
On Friday January 27, Mustadafin held a meeting to unite communities and encourage them to respect their neighbours’ religious and cultural practices.
Many grandmothers brought their grandchildren to the meeting.
Mustadafin also runs a creche for two- to five-year-olds at a cost of R70 a month. “Schools cannot handle the ever-increasing enrolment numbers. Without education people’s lives cannot change. An educated community; is a rich community,” she said.
Ms Fortuin said she had seen instances in which people in Freedom Park, who were previously homeless and living under bridges, were given houses but eventually sold them for meagre pickings due to their negative socialisation as a result of years of living on the streets.
“Very often they don’t bath and don’t use their inside ablution facilities. I have witnessed this in Tafelsig as well and I now have excited children coming to me proudly showing off their clean, cut fingernails.
“We want to teach them how to take pride in themselves,” she said.
Ms Fortuin said they try to convey to parents the importance of being actively involved in all areas of their children’s lives and urged parents, to unlearn anti-social behaviour, while conceding that change doesn’t happen overnight.
“We also have two safe parks; due to our lack of youth care centres in 8th Avenue and Louise Street – depending on gang shootings.”
Isibindi team leader in Tafelsig, Zameka Faku, said they were very passionate about their work and when they visited households, did not judge residents for their life choices.
“We plan to start a Christmas stokvel so that families can have food on the table and clothing, come Christmas time. We are asking each parent to try and donate R20 a month to the Christmas fund.”
The organisation will host church services at 36 4th Avenue, Tafelsig, starting from 10am until 11am.
Call 071 091 8310 or email Ms Fortuin at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.