Orphans say they are kept like pigs

2014-04-11 00:00

NEIGHBOURS at Teak Street in Woodlands watched in surprise as children at the Pietermaritzburg Children’s Home protested inside the locked gates of the child care facility yesterday.

The children, dressed in worn-out school uniforms, locked themselves inside the premises for more than two hours until police broke the chain on the gates to gain access.

The orphanage is home to about 66 children, some as young as five years old.

They were singing struggle songs like those sung at political rallies and chanted “Amandla”.

They refused to open the gate for staff and management who were locked outside, including a social worker.

They complained that they were treated like “pigs” by those running the orphanage and carried placards with words like, “Enough is Enough” and “We are tired of eating rotten food”.

A nine-year-old said, “We are served rotten food and when inspectors come they are only shown food parcels that have not expired; even the menu given to inspectors is different from what we eat.”

He said they wore worn-out uniforms because they had not been bought new ones. “We don’t even get pocket money like we used to,” said another child.

The child added that children who were vocal about their demands were targeted and chased out of the orphanage.

“Last December we were only given R50 to buy Christmas clothes when in previous years we got R400,” she said.

She said while donors gave donations to improve the conditions at the home, those running the organisation were making things worse than where they originally came from.

“We sleep in beds that are supported by bricks,” said another child.

The Witness was taken for a tour inside the premises and everything seemed to be in order and the place was spotlessly clean.

Board member Dev Naidoo said, “If there is any truth in these allegations it would mean that we are animals, because we cannot be allowed to treat children like this.”

He said they had a policy to allow child representatives to be part of their board meetings for the purposes of understanding their challenges but that these issues had not been brought to their attention.

Naidoo asked the representatives why they had not informed the board of their problems.

“This weekend I will have a meeting with child representatives and some board members and within two weeks these problems will be resolved,” said Naidoo.

He admitted the home had financial constraints and they had to call on the trust to release some funds so that they could pay their staff.

Naidoo said it was costly to run such an NGO because they paid R12 000 for electricity alone.

He said when the children have any problems in future, they should use the proper channels.

KwaZulu-Natal Social Development Department spokesperson Ncumisa Fandesi said after social workers received a complaint from the facility, they had attended to it and were investigating the matter.

Fandesi said when the investigation has been concluded, appropriate action would be taken to protect the interests of the children.

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