Wednesday, February 8, 2012

“My pain is deep and my hurt is wide”
Maakomele Manaka

On the 4th of every month, I drive my grand aunt to a community hall in Zone 1 Diepkloof to receive her pensioner’s grant. The first time I went there, we were late and almost didn’t get her money, because after the pensioner’s grant line comes the child support grant, and that’s when I got a shock of my life.

At first I thought these ladies came for a modeling or a Soweto TV audition, because the line was longer than that of a bank at the end of the month, and a long line of young women can only mean one thing, beauty pageants or Pop Idols, but I was so wrong.

So after a couple months doing the same routine with my grand aunt, I met with a young beautiful woman whom I had been seeing there for quiet some time. This girl and I began to chat as she waited in a line that seemed as if it would never end, while I waited for my grand aunt. I would leave before she even reaches half way the pay point. She was smart, articulate and kind, but what I couldn’t understand was why couldn’t she get her self a job, instead of waiting for long hours just to receive R250 from the government.

As I looked around, I saw many young beautiful black women waiting in long queues from as early as 9am joining the pensioners line just so they can get their monthly pay, and so many of them were young.

Is the rate of unemployment in this country perpetuating teenage pregnancy?

The South African Institute of Race Relations found that the rate of unemployment is high among black woman at 63 percent, between the ages of 15 and 24.

What gets to me, is what is a 15 year old doing at work when they should in school?

South Africa statistics show that in the second quarter of this year, 25.7 percent of South Africans were unemployed, which meant that a quarter of the country’s population was out of work, and yet the National Youth Development Agency has time to throw parties that cost more than the amount of unemployed young people in the country.

The more I got to chat with this young lady, who was now my friend, I couldn’t help but ask, “so, what do you do with the money?” then to my surprise, she says that she is saving some of it to go back to school, and then kills my popular belief that, teenage mothers are abusing the states money.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said the right to social security was "entrenched in our Constitution, and we have been very conscious that our social assistance programme does provide a basic safety net for millions of South Africans, especially young, aged and the disabled."

Although, in some parts of the country, teenage mothers have been known to abuse the states money, according to Pretoria’s Heartbeat Center, an organization assisting abused children. The center said that social workers had rescued township children who had been neglected by their young mothers.

The stats also show that unemployment and high increase of teenage mothers varied considerably among race groups, there are more young black mothers who are jobless than colored, Indian and white young South Africans.

57 percent of young black South Africans do not work, while 47 percent of Colored people and 23 percent of Indian people are unemployed, and only 21 percent of young white South Africans do not have jobs. I cant help but think if these rates have something to do with what young people are being taught at school, I mean, are our education institutions providing our youth with the necessary skills that will make them employable? As suppose to dropping out, getting knocked up and expecting the government to pay the bills.

It hurt me to learn that, this young woman from the grant pay point in Diepkloof, was a single teenage unemployed mother, and was doing the best she can, looking for jobs and coming up short, because she dropped out of school during her pregnancy and the father of her child wants nothing to do with them. I cant forget hearing her uttering Bobby McFarrin’s words, saying ”My pain is deep and my hurt is wide” because there was tension at home with her mother and step father, she now lives with her grand mother.

Since South Africa herself is still young, I cant help but notice that many of her children are being raised by children.

Though it comforts me to know that, there are some young people who are concerned about their future regardless of what they may have inherited in the past because we create our own future.


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