Social workers in Soweto, South of Johannesburg, are concerned about child negligence in the township. They say the high rate of children who are reported to them as being neglected is concerning because child negligence is the same as child abuse.
"Child negligence, it’s a problem in Soweto. Each and every week there are one or two children who are reported neglected. Abuse and negligence, can’t be separated. When you leave a child with a stranger, they won’t take care of that child properly, not the way parents will take care of their child,“ said Madoda Ncongolo, a senior social worker at Diepkloof Social Work Centre.
Ncongolo said children being left unattended is a common problem.
"Here in our centre, we are normally attending cases where a mother has left her children unattended or alone, with no one looking after them, and the mother leaving her children with neighbours and never coming back for them. There are also cases of mothers who get new boyfriends and then start to give more attention to the boyfriend and forget about kids,’’ he said.
Ncongolo said negligence can be any situation where parents or caregivers fail to provide food, clothing, shelter, supervision and protection from potential harm.
Phathutshedzo Mukona, another social worker in Diepkloof, said helping a child who has been abused or neglected, to heal, is not easy.
"It takes time for them to heal. As social workers, we have to make sure that we help them be happy again. If we don’t do that, we will find a lot of angry children in our communities. We should not raise an angry nation,’’ said Mokona.
Sixty-two-year-old, Pontsho Mokoqama from Diepkloof, said she is taking care of a six-year-old boy who was abandoned by his mother a year ago.
"Last year, in June, I was sitting with my grandchildren and my son. This child was with us in the house, it was cold. Because it was getting late, I asked my son to take the little boy home. But one of my grandchildren told us that the little boy's mother went to town since from yesterday, but she didn’t come back. To me, it was unbelievable, no one can leave a child just like that without telling neighbours or relatives,’’ she said.
She said they went where the child's mother was renting a shack, but could not find her.
"I am still taking care of the little boy. We don’t know when the mother will come back, whether she is thinking about what the child is eating, where the child is sleeping or if he is getting any help. I reported the matter to the social workers and the police. They are trying to find the boy's mother," said Mokoqama.
Thenjiwe Ngubane (41) From Orlando, said her daughter was in grade 11 when she got pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl. But she doesn’t know what went wrong, her daughter started to neglect the child.
"I don’t know what went wrong. During her pregnancy, she was happy. But after giving birth to her child she went crazy, she wanted nothing to do with the child. She moved out of the house and is staying with her boyfriend. She left everything, birth certificate, social grant card. I won’t neglect my grandchild, I will take care of her," said Ngubane
A 2016 study, by SaferSpaces, showed that 42% of children in South Africa had suffered some form of maltreatment.