MEC FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, MRS WEZIWE THUSI, AT THE INAUGURAL ALTERNATIVE CARE MATRIC AWARDS BREAKFAST HELD IN DURBAN ON 5 APRIL 2018
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and thank you for gracing us with your presence.
I must start by saying that as MEC for Social Development, I have addressed many an occasion and I am proud of each and every one of them, but this Inaugural Alternative Care Matric Awards Breakfast will forever hold a special place in my heart. Today we are celebrating excellent achievement by children in the foster care programme, most of whom have had to overcome incredible circumstances to be here today.
Children in foster care are children in need of care and protection. The Children’s Act describes children in need of care and protection as those children who among others:
• Have been abandoned or orphaned without any means of support
• Have been exploited or live in circumstances that expose them to exploitation
• Live in or are exposed to circumstances which may seriously harm their physical, mental or social well-being
• May be at risk if returned to the custody of the parent or
• Are in a state of physical or mental neglect
Children in these circumstances become wards of the state and it is the responsibility of the Department of Social Development to ensure that they receive alternative care in a safe environment either with family members, cluster foster homes or child and youth care centres.
In our Province we have 81 324 children receiving foster care grants, 3 625 of them are placed in 72 child and youth care centres and the rest with family members. Last year, 2 500 children in alternative care enrolled to write the matric examinations. 1 352 children passed, 1 323 were in foster care and 29 in our CYCCs. Fifty of these children did exceptionally well and we are celebrating their achievement today.
We hope their stories of hard work and perseverance despite the odds, will inspire others in alternative care to rise above their circumstances and reach for the stars. What these young people are reminding us is that it is NOT how you start, but how you finish.
We are very proud of our top 50 achievers led by Sakhile Njoko from Nquthu, who received seven distinctions and is now studying actuarial science at Wits University. Sakhile is the youngest of five siblings who were raised by their cousin as their foster parent. Sakhile’s oldest sibling is now a teacher and the three in the middle are studying towards medicine, with one of them doing his first year in Cuba. Sakhile is followed by Noxolo Manyoni with six distinctions.
As a Department we felt it is important to celebrate the achievements of these children and today we presented them with gifts that will assist them in their new journey. The top 10 received laptops, school bags with goodies as well as a R5 000 clothing voucher from Mr Price. The remaining 40 received school bags with goodies and stationery.
Going forward, this is going to be an annual event that we will use to encourage all children to work hard. We salute the 2017 matric class for facing all obstacles, hardships and challenges head on and not allowing their circumstances to define who they become. We must also salute our foster parents and express our gratitude to them for opening their hearts and homes and raising these children like your own. We honestly believe that without the generosity of these foster parents these children would not be here today. We also want to acknowledge the work of our Social Workers who work hard every day to support these children and their foster families.