The program is being implemented at Zerilda Park Primary School in Lavender Hill. The Primary School is situated in a poor and marginalised community. Formal housing is limited, and many of the children who are referred to the Social Worker live in semi-formal settlements, make-shift housing structures or shacks, where living conditions are at best sub-standard and there is little in the way of infrastructure, including electricity and sanitation. A large percentage of parents being referred to the program have low levels of education and are unskilled, resulting in their inability to find work and sustain their families.
Children living under these conditions experience the harsh realities of poverty and the associated problems of crime, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and neglect on a daily basis. Living in shacks where there is little or no income, limited adult supervision or access to support services, many young people suffer from low self-esteem and have great difficulty developing a sense of self-worth and purpose. These circumstances place them at risk of being abused and exploited and extremely vulnerable to the lure of gangsterism and crime.
Research has shown that South Africa needs an estimated 60 000 social workers to implement the Child Care Act in its current form. There are only 13 000 registered social workers at present, placing an enormous burden on those social workers trying to ensure that children are protected and cared for. In Khayelitsha, for example, there is one social worker allocated by the state to each 5 schools. This means each school social worker has to deal with up to 5000 learners. This is an impossible caseload and as a result social workers take months to respond to urgent cases.
Mamelani has chosen to place social workers and counsellors at the identified schools so that cases can be referred and dealt with from within the school system and within reasonable timeframes. Having the support based within the school allows for cases to be referred immediately and for the focus to be on early intervention, as opposed to crisis intervention. Working at primary schools allows us to intervene at an early stage, working where possible with a focus on prevention – picking up cases at an early stage. Mamelani piloted this program at Sakumlandela Primary in Khayelitsha. A counsellor was placed at the school over a 2-year period. Over this time, a strong referral network was developed, and it was possible to refer almost all the cases to local specialized organizations. Sadly, in Lavender Hill, the referral network is not as strong, and the sheer number and urgency of the cases being referred have confirmed the need for a Social Worker based in the school.
The Nonoza Education Fund provides emotional support, counselling and material relief to approximately 150 vulnerable school-going children and their families each year. The Program supports vulnerable children in being able to make the best of their education, despite their impoverished circumstances. Children who are identified to be struggling due to lack of family support and lack of financial resources receive ongoing counselling. Where necessary, material support for school uniforms, books and food parcels are allocated. Parents and caregivers of identified children enter the program and receive ongoing counselling and access to skills training programs, in an effort to make long-term sustainable change in the family. Parents and caregivers are linked with specialised services such as domestic abuse counselling and support with accessing social grants. The program is currently based at Zerilda Park Primary in Lavender Hill.
Child assessment and one-on-one counselling
Parent and caregiver counselling
Awareness raising and skills training for parents
Career guidance for learners
CHILD ASSESSMENT AND ONE-ON-ONE COUNSELLING
A social worker has been placed at Zerilda Park Primary. She works closely with teachers at the schools to identify children who are struggling to cope academically, socially and/or emotionally as a result of their personal circumstances.
Children are offered emotional support through individual counselling sessions during the school day, providing a safe, unthreatening environment where specific problems can be identified and discussed. The therapeutic process is focused on building the child’s self esteem and ability to cope with the challenges they are facing. Parents and caregivers are invited to join the process, where necessary.
In extreme cases such as neglect and abuse, the Social Worker conducts home visits and works with the Department of Social Development to facilitate the removal of the child and provides appropriate emotional support and counselling.
PARENT AND CAREGIVER COUNSELLING
Parents of identified learners are invited to join the program. Individual counselling sessions are offered to parents to deal with their personal stresses, which in many cases, if left unattended to, have a negative impact on the family. Working with the parents and caregivers is prioritized in order to promote the growth and development of the child and ensure the sustainability of the intervention. It is vital that the intervention does not focus on the child in isolation – working with family members is key to strengthening the family as a whole. When necessary, and depending on the nature and extent of the problems, parents and children are also referred to specialized services and community-based support structures.
"I want to thank you for all you have done for me this year. I am someone because of you. When I have a problem, I know what to do and where to go. I want to say thank you very much for the gift that God has given you to help people. Please continue to do so." – Member of parent group
AWARENESS RAISING AND SKILLS TRAINING FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
Parents who show commitment to the program attend anger management, positive parenting and domestic violence awareness workshops. They are also invited to work in the school garden and learn the skills required for growing their own food. In the last term, parents who show commitment throughout the year are offered accredited skills training courses and are supported in accessing work, writing CV’s, preparing for interviews and seeking employment. Material relief in the form of food parcels is only provided to parents who commit fully to the program.
Children of these parents are also assisted with school uniforms, stationary and materials. This support is extended, in some cases, to children whose parents are not willing to engage in the program. In many of these cases, parents who are not willing to engage are found to be substance abusers, suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. Although material support is given as a short-term intervention, more sustainable long-term solutions need to be found, in most cases this includes having the children removed and placed in alternative care.
Feedback from parents: "I am writing this letter to thank you for your help with my children. Since meeting you, my family is stronger than before. And for this, I will never forget you. I have gained deep knowledge about many things that I did not know before. Today, my future is bright because of you. For someone who had no future before, I say this, with all my heart. Thank you very much and may God bless you." – Member of parent group
"I want to take this opportunity to thank you for making it easier for me to make my dreams come true by giving me a chance to study in the direction that I wish to work. Years ago I worked part-time as an unqualified home carer. I always wanted to study for a nursing career but never got to do it as my sparse income was hardly enough to feed me and my children. It always had been a dream of working with people that need medical help. My goal is to qualify as an ambulance assistant. The NEF Program made it possible for me to get the ball rolling and I can’t thank you enough for helping me to reach my goals. This path was not an easy one due to being out of work and being a single parent, but you made a big difference in my life by supporting not only me, but also my children with the basic daily needs." – Member of parent group
"Thank you for everything you have done for me this year, I can’t thank you enough. I want to be able to give to my children a better education, a better future, a lifestyle that every child deserves and in order for me to do so I need to reach my goal that I set not just for just for me but for my children as well. I truly believe that I will reach it and that I will be able to give my kids the life I never had. With great thanks." - Member of parent group
"Thank you for sending me on the sewing course – it was something I didn’t expect in my life. Now, I have a brighter future." - Member of parent group.
CAREER GUIDANCE FOR LEARNERS
A career guidance workshop is arranged for learners, to assist them with making informed decisions regarding the subjects they choose and how this impacts on their future studies. Information regarding F.E.T colleges and bursaries is shared with the learners.
Between March 2009 and February 2010 195 children and families were reached through the program.
Message from our partner: +
"Our partnership with Mamelani has grown from strength to strength. Placing counsellors at the school has been of great benefit to the school. The program has already had so many success stories and has been an essential support to the learners. Parents have benefited from the program and have shown great commitment to working in the garden at Sakumlandela. Many learners have been supported by Susanne and Thabo: Their passion and drive to help and support the many cases they work with is inspiring. Earthchild Project would like to thank Mamelani for the positive impact it has had on the children and families it supports and we hope to continue to grow our partnership." - Janna Kretzmar, Director, Earthchild Project