Homes struggle to kit pupils out

With new uniforms and backpacks stocked with must-have school items, Nelson Mandela Bay schoolchildren are ready to take on the new school year today, but not all are so lucky.

For the many youngsters living in children’s homes in the Bay, even getting the bare minimum is a struggle and they could still do with so much more.

According to children’s homes surveyed, the beginning of the year is their most costly time.

In Mount Pleasant, ACVV Khayalethu Youth Centre head Marietjie van der Merwe said: “It’s been hectic trying to sort everyone out.”

Children’s homes put school clothes and stationery on their budgets, but due to a lack of funds, equipping all the pupils is difficult.

“Our boys each have the basics; a pair of pants, a shirt and shoes. The rest we hope to get through corporate funding at the end of the month,” Van der Merwe said.

The boys were not fussy, she said, and accepted previously owned items with gratitude.

“We make do with what we have, but could honestly do with the basics; underwear, socks, bags . . .” she said.

Khayalethu’s need of the basics for its 24 school-going children is echoed by other homes.

At the Eastern Province Child and Youth Centre in Glendinningvale, Travis Marshall said although this time of the year was budgeted for, it was a real challenge.

“Donations of school uniforms, shoes, and paper and plastic to cover books are a real need,” he said.

Things more fortunate children deemed a necessity were a luxury for the 95 school-going children in the centre’s care, he said. “The children don’t even have pencil cases.”

Oosterland Youth Centre in Despatch has been a bit more privileged with donations and the 80 pupils who attend 15 different schools in Despatch and Uitenhage are ready for the day with uniforms and stationery.

“The community has been extremely generous and we have managed to kit out all our children,” Oosterland director Riaan Marais said.

Marais said the cupboard was bare once the pupils had been equipped. “When new children come in we must give them everything they need for school. For that we need donations,” he said.

Marshall said: “School clothes and supplies don’t expire, but children will be children and things get broken and lost.”

-Eleanor Douglas-Meyers

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