It’s the children who are suffering

2010-09-27 00:00

THERE was a very sad story aired on Cutting Edge on TV recently about a young mother of six who left her children and was staying with her boyfriend, the father of her seventh unborn child.

Her eldest daughter, who is only 11 years old, has had to assume the role of mother while her own mother is making more babies in another province. This little girl cooks, washes, cleans and looks after her younger siblings, the youngest of whom is three years old. These kids don’t have any money for food and so as the oldest of them all, she’s been going around asking neighbours for food.

What hurts me the most is that the mother of these children collects just over R1 000 every month from the government to take care of these children. This goes to show that as thoughtful as the idea of child grants is, it’s not really helping who it’s meant to help. I understand that the government is doing what it can by providing this money to unemployed parents and it has no control over how the money is used or whether it is really used for the children, but surely every­one can see that this system is not effective.

The children don’t have any say in this, yet they are the ones who suffer the most. I don’t expect the government to ensure that single, unemployed mothers who receive child grants take care of their children but shouldn’t there be a system that allows the government to follow up on the effectiveness of this scheme? Is it really enough that the government just forks out money every month supposedly to help meet the needs of innocent little children? Shouldn’t the government research whether or not the system is working and whether or not children really are being taken care of? Social workers are there but are there enough of them? Or is it just that not everyone earns their pay?

Most of my male friends who have babies complain about giving money to the mothers of their babies because some use the money for other things that have nothing to do with the children. This does happen and that’s why most men prefer to shop for the baby as opposed to forking out money every month. Perhaps this is what the government should consider as well. Instead of handing out money to unemployed mothers, food parcels can be handed out. These could consist of baby formula, nappies and other baby basics. The parcels could vary depending on the ages of the children. This process would obviously create a lot more work but the government’s goal would have been achieved, as babies would have the necessary essentials that they need instead of the government making futile efforts to help those in need.

Mothers such as this particular one make it impossible for the rest of the world to notice the government’s efforts to help and so people tend to think that nothing is being done to protect little children who can’t fend for themselves. We see children caring for other children and we assume that a social worker somewhere is not doing what he or she is paid to do. We hear of children going to bed on empty stomachs and we assume that the government just doesn’t care about the children.

And I don’t disregard the fact that there are mothers who collect this child grant every month and do use this little bit of money to take care of their children. My respect goes out to them. Raising a child gets more and more expensive as the years go on and it’s not just the financial burden, there are other crucial aspects to raising a baby that mothers have to deal with. We appreciate that the government lends a hand.

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