The Day of African Child reminds global humanity about the perils, resilience and grim realities facing the African child.
Humanitarian organisations like the SOS Children’s Village over the years have supported African or Swazi children through its family-like care centers.
Zanele Ndlangamandla (28) and Mndeni Mabaso (27) are amongst hundreds of Swazi children whose future was at the brink of collapse because of weak family structures.
Growing despondent by day, Ndlangamandla after the lose of parents at the age (7), her education hanged by the thread and prospects of a bleak future became a reality.
“Life became really difficult. We shared a one room with my elder sister who was a school leaver. She sacrificed her tertiary education to provide for us. She bought us second hand uniforms.” she recalled.
A Place I can call home
The SOS Children’s Village came to the rescue to give them education and the sustainable future.
“I was excited,” she recalled. “I pinched myself in disbelief. Life felt so different and real when I arrived at the center. Here I was in this lavish house with electricity and running water, I liked the new place! It had unique impression that I was taken good care of. However, I missed the company of my other sister. I was comfortable around her.”
Like Ndlangamandla, Mabaso’s future almost went up in smoke too.
“At the age of 11, I was still doing Grade 1. Problems started even before I was born when my parents divorced and the subsequent death of my father while young hit the last nail on the coffin,” he said.
With SOS Children’s Village giving them a new lease of life they both rose from those ashes of failure and poverty but worked hard to become respectable citizens who contribute positively in the development of the country. They are now young people who are determined to make a mark in the private sector.
Through SOS Children’s Village, Mabaso finished school in 2019 at the age of 24 and worked for a leading global courier company. This year he graduated and acquired Diploma in Business Accounting and Finance. He also owns a car wash in Matsapha Industrial Site.
On the other hand, Ndlangamandla, SOS Children’s Village assisted her to finish high school in Ghana, afterwards she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology and Gender studies from the prestigious University of Cape town, in South Africa.
“I have worked for Eswatini Electricity Company and Christian radio station, the Voice of the Church. Now I am running my own consulting and recruiting agency.
“We are well educated and balanced in life with my siblings. We have build our home, now we have a place we call home!
Looking back their difficult childhood, comparing with their present achievements they realize the difference with their age mates, who some of them has fallen in hard times.
Subject to the 2022 African Union (AU) theme on removing harmful practices affecting children, Ndlangamandla said children in Eswatini and Africa still face deprivation to quality education. The African girl child is still subject to cultural practices that deny her access to education.
“In some societies in Africa still practice and believe that the girl child must not get education, but be prepared for marriage. Such cases are common even here in the kingdom,” she noted.
Mabaso on the other hand, expressed concern on multi concurrent relations and intergenerational relationships.
“Such harmful practices expose young people to sexual abuse and HIV and AIDS. Young people must work hard instead of making short cuts to good living,” said Mabaso.
SOS Children’s Village Advocacy Officer, Tenele Mkhabela, said the institution celebrates the Day of the Africa Child in line with AU theme.
She acknowledged progress Eswatini has made since 2013. The country already had the Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 and the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act of 2018.
“The latter increased the age of maturity to consent for female from 16 years to 18 years. Which means one cannot have sex with a child below the age of 18. However, the country’s piece of legislation on marriages still says a child can get married at the age of 16 for females and 18 for males. But with the consent of parents of course, the Marriages Act is still under review,” she said.