My mother was my age when she gave birth to me.
In the middle of her Grade 2 year, when she was eight years old, she was sent from her home country to Johannesburg to work for her aunt.
My grandmother had no education and she didn't feel that it was necessary for my mum to be educated past Grade 2. So, she sent her to work as a shop assistant and "cashier" in my great aunt's spaza shop.
My mum cannot read or write. She started to learn with me as I moved through junior school and now she can help her boss write out a grocery list and read a recipe.
But she can't understand the letters they send home from school, so I just don't give them to her.
I am the eldest of four children and soon we'll be five siblings because my mum is pregnant. I will be 16 this year.
My mother is a good person. She wants better for us. She dreams of us completing school. She works every day so that we can attend school.
Since I was small, she has had to leave for work early and I have had to cook and clean for my three younger siblings. I have taken them to school for the first day of school, and each day thereafter, and I collect them after school every day.
We walk home together and I cook them lunch.
This a story from the series: Finding Family | Nine mothers share the defining moments of their rocky path to parenthood
My brothers have always given me trouble, but my youngest sibling, a little girl, is timid and well behaved. I am teaching her to do as I have been taught to do.
Every day, as we get home, the boys run off into the neighbourhood. I worry about them but they don't listen to me. My sister and I start our afternoon duties, cleaning and cooking.
As it starts to get dark, we wait for my mum and the boys to find their way back home.
There's no time to do my homework, but I try. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows that we alone at home in the afternoon. Since I was about 13, the neighbourhood boys have started to stop by to hlupa (bother) me.
In the beginning, I didn't understand what they wanted so I used to let them into the house for some company.
But then, as time went on, I understood why they came.
This month my mum is getting ready to welcome her baby. I wonder whether it will be her last. I am in Grade 10, so close to finishing what she hoped and dreamed.
She didn't plan this baby. I know she feels like she can't even take care of us. Sometimes I wonder how she would have coped if I had been a boy. Who would have cared for all the younger children while she was at work?
Sometimes I get mad thinking about how I am going to have to take care of this baby too.
I missed my period five months ago. I was so happy. Periods are so hard for me because we cannot afford sanitary pads. That month, I didn't have to miss any school.
I am pregnant.
Mom is too busy to notice. But as my belly grows, so does my sadness. I am such a disappointment. I am so ashamed.
The boys don't stop coming. I hear the girls whisper "sfebe" (whore) at school. But I am just unlucky that I am now a growing advert, displaying what I have done. I know they are doing it too. They just didn't get caught.
I am going to have a baby that is only a few months younger than my little brother. I am going to have a baby before I finish school.
I am going to have a baby I cannot care for. I want to kill myself. But who will take care of my siblings?
I hate my life.
I am too much of a failure to even die.
Words by Maletsatsi
Edited by Elizabeth Mamacos
Read more in the series here: Finding Family | Nine mothers share the defining moments of their rocky path to parenthood
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