Children’s home in decline

2010-10-13 00:00

THE Ekujabuleni Children’s Home in Edendale is on the verge of collapse and Deputy Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini yesterday criticised the director and staff for their neglect and lack of concern for the children in their care.

About 63 children have been removed from the home since last year, after Dlamini paid a surprise visit in December and found it in what she called an “appalling” state.

According to department officials, the children were removed in phases, the first group in December and the last group two months ago.

No children remain at the home and the staff members have been retrenched.

Ekujabuleni is the second home in Pietermaritzburg from which the department has removed children.

Earlier this year, children at the Natal Children’s Home were removed after it emerged that they were allegedly mistreated and were made to sleep in tents during the Comrades Marathon so that the management could rent out their rooms to runners.

Addressing community members and volunteers during her visit to Ekujabuleni yesterday, Dlamini berated the director, the management and the workers at the home for their lack of concern and passion for the children entrusted to them.

She said during her visit last Christmas to donate toys to the children, she found the home in an appalling condition.

“My first struggle was at the gate; they took more than 15 minutes just to open the gate,” she said.

Dlamini said that once inside, she witnessed the poor conditions under which the children were living.

She found that the director of the home was not there, there was poor staff attendance and that people who were not supposed to be at the home were roaming around the place.

Dlamini said that although there is a clear demarcation between the boys’ and girls’ quarters, she found that the boys were roaming freely in the girls’ quarters and that was a matter of grave concern.

She said hygiene at the home was poor. “In one incident, I witnessed a dog drinking water out of a basin containing children’s food. I have a dog and I would never let it drink where my children eat.”

The deputy minister said she was also offended by being interrogated by the daughter of the home director who pretended to work there.

“She pretended to be one of the employees. The people who do not belong to the home should not be there.”

Dlamini said it was not their intention to close down the home.

“After witnessing the condition, I contacted the social development cluster in Pietermaritzburg to investigate the situation.”

She said the home has to be restored to a suitable condition for the children to live in.

“Putting children under these conditions is equivalent to secondary abuse; we remove children from abusive situation to rejuvenate them, not to subject them to more abuse.”

Nokuthula Khanyile-Gumede, a general manager at the Pietermaritzburg social development offices, said it will take time before the children are placed back.

“The home is still not ready. We are working with the staff on a programme to make it more suitable for the children,” she said.

Sbongile Ngcobo, the director of Ekujabuleni, said in her defence: “Everybody has their view of the situation and I am not going to say much because I am not a deputy minister.

“The conditions under which the children were taken are still of concern to me because we are supposed to work in partnership with the government, but in this case that is not what happened,” said Ngcobo.

Bathabile Dlamini, Deputy Social Development Minister

In one incident, I witnessed a dog drinking water out of a basin containing children’s food. I have a dog and I would never let it drink where my children eat.

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