VOICES OF HOPE: CHILDREN IN MANENBERG SPEAK OUT AGAINST VIOLENCE AND STRIVE FOR A BETTER FUTURE

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BY PRECIOUS MUPENZI

  • Over 200 children from Manenberg articulate their desires for a safer community during the launch of the ChommY Programme by Deputy Minister of Social Development, Dr. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.
  • Originating from Afrikaans, “Manenberg” translates to “man and mountain,” highlighting the community’s uphill battle against gang-related violence and drug abuse.
  • The event underscores the urgent need for intervention in addressing the deep-rooted social challenges facing children in the area, as stakeholders rally to support their aspirations for a brighter future.

“Stop gangsterism, stop gender-based violence, stop bullying, stop load shedding, say no to drugs and alcohol abuse, say no to teenage pregnancy, stop under-age drinking and let us plant more trees and build a clean environment,” says children.

More than 200 children from Manenberg expressed their desires during the launch of the ChommY Programme by Deputy Minister of Social Development, Dr. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu at Silverstream Primary School in Cape Town. They conveyed to Bogopane-Zulu that granting these wishes would make Manenberg a safer place for them.

Originating from Afrikaans, “Manenberg” translates to “man and mountain” in English. However, for the children in this community, life resembles a mountainous challenge due to the pervasive impact of gang-related violence and drug abuse, issues deeply entrenched since the era of apartheid in the 1960s.

Held under the theme: “Invest in My Future”. ChommY is part of the Department of Social Development’s Compendium of Social and Behavioural Programme aimed at equipping children and adolescents with the knowledge, skills and values to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships. Moreover, the programme has evolved to include issues around children involved in conflict and other situations of violence.

Mzwandile Tonisi, the principal at Silverstream Primary School says the social ills affection the area, particularly gang-related wars had a severe impact on mental health, with the majority of children needing psychological support.

“These children come from vulnerable and traumatised communities. Children are also traumatised by the incidents they experience daily. As a full-service school, we do not only focus on the curriculum but we also have a responsibility to ensure that children are ready psychologically to learn,” says Tonisi.

Tonisi describes the community of Manenberg as “traumatised.”

“The launch of Chommy in our area came at the right time. This event today has exposed the community of Manenberg. During the session, only 2% of the children confirmed that they live with their fathers, while others were sharing shocking conditions they live under. As a school, this is what we deal with on a daily basis, and we are committed to being more than just a school. We want to create a conducive environment for the children and be a beacon of hope for the children.”

He further stated that gang-related violence affects the curriculum.

“Gang violence is affecting our curriculum negatively. In many instances, when shootings start parents come to collect their children as early as 09:00. The life we are living is a little bit disruptive.”

*Zayn Dawood, an 11-year-old boy, grapples with trauma following the loss of his uncle. “I still cry when I miss my uncle,” he shares, reflecting on the profound impact of his uncle’s care and affection. *Zayn longs for an end to the violence that claimed his uncle’s life, yearning for the freedom to play with friends without fear of shootings. Amid the despair, these children are still holding on to their dreams. Some want to be doctors, soccer players, nurses, singers, police, fire fighters and pilots.

“My dream is to become a professional soccer player, help my mother and buy her a beautiful house and a car,” says *Amine Kadir, a 10-year-old boy.

The event was also attended by several stakeholders including the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, USAIDS and local Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs).

Meanwhile, the Nelson Mandela Foundation will be co-hosting with the government the African Children Summit in August, Johannesburg, where children across the continent will be engaging leaders, policymakers and experts on the issues about children.

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