A child has rights in theory. The reality is different for many
“No child should suffer abuse, neglect or rejection.
The fact is that a high percentage of South Africa’s children do.
We cannot help all of them, but we must help those that we can.”
South Africa commemorates Child Protection Week from 29 May – 4 June this year. The stories below should tell you why this is still needed to raise awareness about the plight of children in South Africa. Every year, the cry for help from our country’s children is more urgent. The stories get scarier and more horrifying as time goes on.
Society and families fail children. The lucky ones have come through the gates of Abraham Kriel Bambanani since 1902.
These are the stories of some children that YOU are saving from abuse now:
Lunathi (6 months): Residential Care Programme
Baby Lunathi’s (main image) hands and feet had become food for rats as he was left unloved and neglected by his parents. He spent months healing in hospital before he was released into the care of the Maria Kloppers Campus earlier this month. He is looking healthier and his tiny feet and hands are healing. He needs extensive occupational therapy and medical care by doctors.
“Lunathi is receiving much needed love and care from our staff. I can only hope we got to him soon enough to prevent permanent emotional scars”, says Lourika van Niekerk – Section Head: Baby ward at Maria Kloppers.
Jade (14): Residential Care Programme
“Jade is very quiet, trusts nobody, has low self-esteem and is not coping at school” – Christina Sebiloane, Social Worker.
Jade was sexually abused by a person she trusted and this trauma has affected her deeply.
“It is almost impossible to describe the emotional and psychological damage that sexual abuse causes to a child,” explained Christina. Some consequences include that Jade is now dependent on medication to help with stress. She also could not cope at a main stream school and was placed in a special school.
Studies have shown that the developing brain of a child undergoes physical changes as a result of trauma and abuse, which can impact on a child’s education very badly.
“Jade receives therapy every week and we monitor her school work and social integration with her peers. Over time her self-esteem will hopefully improve and one day she may be able to function independently”, continued Christina.
Themba: Community Services Programme
Themba is a 15 year old living with his father in Soweto. Previously his dad abused him to satisfy his drug habit. Themba’s belongings were sold for drug money and should Themba not have anything of value to sell, he would be beaten up.
Themba and his little sister were removed from their father’s care and placed in temporary foster care. When this placement failed, the children were placed in their aunt’s care, which also did not work out.
Themba was angry, had a bad attitude and was failing dismally at school.
In 2021, after a preventative services programme was put in place for the family, Themba was returned to his father. No recent episodes of abuse have been reported.
The family remains part of the Soweto Family Care programme, is constantly being monitored and receives much needed counseling services.
Gertrude: Community Services Programme
Gertrude was sexually abused and this has caused her to behave in a manner no 14-year-old should behave. She started dating an older man and this caused further emotional damage so that she started acting out.
Her sexual abuse case was reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS) and their social workers referred her to the Teddy Bear Clinic. She still receives support services from the clinic and has started counseling session with Innocentia Baloyi – a Social Worker from the AKB Soweto Family Care Programme.
AKB is not authorised to remove children from their homes. The Department of Social Development can remove kids, such as Themba and Gertrude, from the care of their guardians into alternative care.
Keegan: Residential Care Programme
At 10 years of age, Keegan had been exposed to harrowing violence, to the extent that he needs medication for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Before he was placed in our care, Keegan lived with his step-parents (his step-father remarried after the arrest of his biological mother) and siblings in an environment characterised by domestic violence and substance abuse.
He witnessed his father trying to rape his younger sister and at an even younger age, he witnessed his mother murder his sister. Both parents have been arrested and Keegan and his siblings were placed in our care and are all receiving therapy.
Keegan needs a lot of help. He is not performing well at school and is always fighting with other boys, but he is trying to cope. He is receiving therapy from a private psychologist and has monthly check-ups with Child, Adult and Family Unit doctors at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.
These children’s stories are just a sample of the thousands of kids out there, whose rights to safety and love are non-existent. Many are often scared into keeping quiet or are lost in “the system” and some are at risk to become perpetrators themselves.
With the right kind of love, patience and guidance their stories can and will have a different ending. Your contributions towards the upbringing of these children is pivotal in making sure that the cycle of abuse does not continue. THANK YOU for being there!
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the children