If Nosipho lost a pen as a child, she would be beaten.
Nosipho’s one year old baby with fluffy hair, a sign of malnourishment, was sucking her mom’s school pens. We were sitting in their concrete house in rural Zululand after climbing a steep, sandy path past bushes to get inside. The small house has grey concrete walls, grey concrete floors, a grey corrugated iron ceiling and a little kitchen table with four chairs. There are no mats, carpets, tiles, pictures or cushions. Inside were two beds although four adults live there and four children do too.
I thought the little 13 month old child had my pen in her mouth too, so I made some silly remark about how I always lose pens… because I always lose pens. I even had to pay a security guard for his pen when I arrived at a story to report for EWN without one. He charged me 10 Rand.
So Nosipho told me the story about how when she was a child her parents would give her a pen for school and tell her you she could only have a new one when the pen was finished. She had to keep her pen and then take it to her mom when it was dry and empty and then she would get a new one. If she lost her pen, she would be beaten, she says.
That is poverty.
Have I ever in all my many years actually finished a pen? Have you?
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