Child Care Work - Speaking to SELINAH NTUKA
© UNICEF South Africa/2010/Pawelczyk
Selinah Ntuka takes the down the names and ages of children who arrive at the Isibindi safe park in the afternoon. At the park children receive a meal and spend the afternoon playing games or doing their homework under the guidance of the Isibindi staff.
Thirty nine-year old, Selinah Ntuka, has been a child care worker with ISIBINDI Kathorus in Katlehong, Johannesburg, since June 2006. She is a mother of two and takes care of her 11 year-old niece. She spoke to us about her work and how she found her calling.
How and why did you become a child care worker? And how has it changed your life?
Before I became a child care worker, I was volunteering at a local organisation as a health worker. The National Association of Child Care Workers wanted to open a site here in Katlehong and my supervisor sent me to them, thinking that it might be a workshop and that I would bring information to improve our work. When I got there I learned about what they do and that it wasn’t a workshop but a training to become a child care worker. This was a calling for me; I love children. I raised them even before I had my own by helping to raise my siblings. Many people in my community used to bring their children to me and ask me to help look after them. If you are called, you know you will do it well.
Becoming a child care worker has changed my life a lot. It is great to be a professional and to receive training and information about rights and responsibilities. Before I was nothing to the community, now I am something. I am recognised.
What do you do at ISIBINDI with the children?
We do many activities with the children. There are 17 child care workers at this site. I do home visits every day and work in the life space of the children. I help them to make memory boxes with pictures and documents of parents or family members who have died, to deal with grief. If I see there is a problem in a family I talk and consult with them until it is resolved. I see six families a day; not all of the children are orphans but the parents are often sick. I also help the grannies looking after their grandchildren to get social and disability grants. I help them to meet with the social workers and to become legal guardians of the children after their parents pass on so that they can receive the grants. Before they access grants, I work out a budget with them. If the children are HIV-positive, I take them to a local support group. I encourage and teach families to start vegetable gardens to improve their nutrition.
What are the main challenges in this community?
HIV is a very big challenge: there are so many orphans here and children who are staying at home, not going to school, to look after sick parents. A lot of women here work as domestics in Alberton and other suburbs, and the men as gardeners, but not many have permanent jobs.
One of the biggest problems I experience is the lack of documents. If you do not have documents it is very difficult to get help. Sometimes the children do not get admitted to schools so the older ones, who are desperate and heads of household, turn to selling their bodies.
Tell us about a case you have helped with?
There was one family where the grandmother died in 2009. She was 62 and she was HIV-positive. She was looking after her granddaughter at the time who was also infected and on ARVs, the girl’s mother had died of AIDS. When the granny died nobody knew what to do with the child, the rest of the family was not looking after her so the social workers placed the child with a foster mother. When it was time for the funeral, the family came and I sat down with them to find out what was going on and to remind them about the child. I found out that the girl’s uncle was going to be taking the grandmother’s house. The uncle is now the girl’s legal guardian and is receiving the grant for her. His wife is going with the child to the local support group and she is happy and healthy.