The children play in dirt under the trees looking bored, hungry and sad.
There is little hope in their faces. In some an empty despair fills out their eyes. They play with sticks and stones. The suffocating boredom weighs down heavily, like the stifling humid heat that presses down on all in summer.
The houses in Ingwavuma rural KZN are just like the pictures of impoverished Africa plastered on NGO pamphlets or T.V. donation appeals to the West.
I enter a rural property with a translator and am welcomed to sit on the straw mat. The children sit further away watching and women – some from nearby houses – gather round. I feel like an anthropologist sitting in my long skirt on the floor in the rural-est of settings with a translator while I make notes and the chickens pass by. The view of nearby mountains is magnificent.
Not one family invites me into their tiny houses.
The Gogos are tired, old and seem to lack the energy to be raising children all over again.
Everyone’s clothes are holed, mismatching and sandy. There is lethargy among the snotty nosed children – It is unclear if they eat enough and uncertain if they are loved enough.
One thing in common in the houses I visit, is the sheer number of kids compared with the adults. Men are nowhere to be seen, children are everywhere and most care givers are gogos.
It’s not just orphans that are vulnerable, it’s the children left behind by their mothers who disappear to the city to find work and leave gogos in charge of broods of kids.
It seems like men in general don’t take responsibility for their children; they’re just left over remnants of adult fun to be forgotten like the night itself. Local resident Sabelo says men generally DON’T have anything to do with their kids. He is unique in looking after his child although true to form he works all day and the two year-old-boy is watched by Sabelo’s mom, the child’s granny.
These live-in babysitters are raising their children’s children.