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Youth and children

Many children grow up with poor supervision and formation. Many of them are from single-parent families, and even their (often under-age) mothers are not always present in their lives. Others grow up in child headed households. This affects their human formation. There is a widespread lack of domestic values and norms.

The lack of male role models in the home (it is a “fatherless” society) has an impact on the behaviour of boys. There is nobody to teach them how a "real" man behaves. So they are assuming a merely imagined role of men and acting it out to the detriment of girls. An almost "omnipotent" macho behaviour is not uncommon.

Workshops with the youth revealed that they are familiar with the phenomenon of human trafficking. It occurs in our area and apparently increasingly so during the run-up to the FIFA worldcup. Poverty leads also to common prostitution e.g. in shebeens, informal taverns. At times this prostitution is supported by parents who hope to get their share of the income generated in this way.

The failure rate in schools is very high, the quality of teaching and learning very low. This reduces the learners chances of further education and future employment. Basic skills are missing such as mathematics and simple calculations which would be essential for the development of businesses. A statistical observation indicates that girls, though weak in the first years of schooling, perform significantly better than boys when it comes to secondary education.

The parishes of the diocese have a number of crèches. Some of them are spontaneous creations. These indicate the need for such institutions and the people responding to it; the quality of infrastructure and personnel, however, is questionable. The standards at these crèches need to be developed as well as their equipment. They are meant to make a difference but often are unable to do so. The principal of the Holy Cross Primary school confirms the bad state of early childhood education and formation: Many children who ask for admission to the school cannot count, do not to discern colours and cannot jump. She deplores a lack of standards and commitment at crèches. Children appear to be merely dumped at the crèches should provide a proper foundation for schooling.

A recent survey done by Siyabhabha (Caritas South Africa) unearthed a number of issues that need to be addressed with regards to crèches. The staff requires urgent attention. Those among them trained by the Department for Social Development fare are much better than those who have not received such training. Further training is needed for the crèche teachers. Moreover they are in need of overcoming their solitude and lack of exchange of ideas and peer evaluation and development. 

The Sisters of the Holy Cross run a primary school in Aliwal North which is doing very well. Two former Catholic secondary schools were transformed into Public Schools on Private Property. These schools are meant to have a Catholic ethos and an approach that targets commitment to the poor. Both of these approaches are scarcely visible. Bishop Demont School in Aliwal North is notoriously weak, and has no Catholic Teachers at present. Teresa School in the former Transkei had pass rates below 20%, which increased to 78% in 2009. School governing bodies need to develop their competence in essentially co-running the schools. Despite their contractual obligation of developing and maintaining a Catholic ethos scarcely any of this is happening. The co-operation between diocese and schools with their few Catholic teachers needs attention.

The School Committee of the Diocese identified further critical areas in school-life. The number of suicides is increasing and the capacity for dealing with this crisis by way of teachers, learners and homes does not exist. Rare beneficient experiences do exist with students who have been trained to detect signs of change in the behaviour of their peers.

Those students who do well at school leave the area to pursue further, tertiary education or search for jobs. Their lives are affected by migration and the insertion into an entirely different environment where the traditional cultural patterns, as worn out as they are, don’t provide support anymore. They would need support by preparing them for migration.

The abuse of drugs is increasing in schools. External indication of this is given by is the dog units of the South African Police Service searching Bishop Demont School. The most common drugs are mandrax, cocaine and dagga (local marihuana). Apart from combating the immediate use, the search for the root-causes is necessary so that they can be addressed. Poverty and missing perspectives for the future are certainly a main contributor as are the domestic abuse of alcohol and broken down family life. The unruly strikes in August/September 2010 in the public service sector are an indication of strong social tensions due to the huge gap between the poverty of many and the incredible salaries that the “haves” receive. 

There is strong influx of Chinese and other traders. The local people do not get involved. This indicates the lack of basic skills to start some business using their own initiation. Even basic mathematical skills are extremely underdeveloped. The attitude towards the development of a venture among young people is in urgent need of development.

Facilities for spare time are scarcely available often leading to boredom and related consequences. The local branch of the Department of Sports complains that appropriate facilities for sports are not available which would allow for consistent training without the usual distractions such as taverns and bottle stores. Lack of infrastructure among other factors affects the leisure time of the youth. In the townships many are idle. There is nowhere they could find assistance in homework and incentives to further learning.

Many young people drop out of school. Significant number are drawn into drug and substance abuse. This leads repeatedly to instances of violence and domestic violence. Children rob their grandparents of their pension. Murders occur at such occasions.

Young people grow into a prevailing mentality of entitlement that leads to a lack of initiative. In regard to employment many look for jobs instead of starting their own small business. The poor outcome of the schooling system and e.g. missing basic mathematical skills increases this problem. Creative thinking regarding opportunities and carrying them out is scarce. This needs long term attention. Authors like Mampela Ramphele point out that policies presenting the government as service provider have the inherent danger of conditioning people into the role of mere recipients of handouts instead of enabling them to take initiatives on their own.

HIV/AIDS is a long-term problem. Much is done especially by the Church to address the issue in peer education reaching out to schools. The sustainability of such approaches needs attention. Young people are involved. The services extend to home based care and care of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs).

Doubtless one strength of the young people lies in their love of singing, choirs and music competitions. Skills development and creativity can still be further developed in this area.