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At 19 and in matric, Shylet’s dreams are to make it to tertiary education, reunite with her twin, Caroline, and to become a professional in the field of her choice.
Her eyes are set on the University of Venda or that of Johannesburg, and she says her grades at her Musina school have always been good. Her face clouds over as she hints at the possible problems in getting funding. Now a refugee living in a Musina shelter, Shylet, from Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, came to South Africa in February 2009 looking for her mother.
“I knew my mom was in Pretoria and wanted to find her to see if she could get us out of the situation of poverty we lived in,” she said.
Armed with a batch of forged documents ,she and others trudged through a river and crawled under fences, only to be captured by the police as they reached Musina. “I was declared under age and brought to this shelter where I stayed all year, frustrated that my well-laid plans were not getting anywhere,” she said.
This teenager is one of many unaccompanied and displaced children who make their way into the country in their thousands every year. The children often leave their families behind with the aim of finding a better life in South Africa.
The Children’s Bill says those under 18 deserve the protection of the state, which should ensure that they receive documentation that entitles them to education and health services.
Shylet, who left home in search of the mother who abandoned her and her twin sister in 2003, had in her hand the address for an Atteridgeville house, which bore the name of her grandmother.
She showed the address to the managers of the MGM women and girl’s shelter where she stayed and finally saw her grandmother, and other relatives, at the Atteridgeville home in January.
“It was emotional. They were excited and so was I. But because I never really had a relationship with them, my major concern was to find my mother. Although they had seen her after she left home no one knew where she was,” said Shylet.
Disappointed, she returned to the shelter, where she was enrolled in Grade 11. She swore she would make it, no matter what.
“But there is the issue of documentation. I have an asylum-seeker’s permit but that might not get me funding for university”.
If she found her mother – a South African – she would automatically be granted citizenship.
“But she is nowhere to be found so I remain a refugee.”
The Home Affairs system, Lawyers for Human Rights explained, did not grant nationality if the parent was not present.
Shylet said: “We were 11 when my mother left and we were shocked and confused. These feelings almost derailed me, but I quickly got over them and I have accepted that she never will be a part of my life.”
Her face lights up when she talks about Caroline, a domestic worker in Joburg. “We talk on the phone all the time but we stopped visiting each other because of the pain of separating when the time came.”
She recalls her first days at school. “I stood out from my schoolmates. I couldn’t understand sePedi or siVenda, but I learnt quickly and fit in now,” she said.
Life at the shelter also had its ups and downs. “It has become home. We are taken care of, fed and given chores to do,” she said.
Of her twin sister, Shylet said: “ If I get into the University of Johannesburg I will never allow us to be separated again.”
She added: “I don’t think I can have a relationship with my mom, but I would like to know where she is and find out why she abandoned us. We were very young and needed her when she left. Nothing she can do can make up for that.”
l This week marks World Refugee Week, which aims at conscientising South Africans about the plight of foreigners who flee their countries to seek refuge here. – Pretoria News
Dont mean to be funny but foreigners must just go back home.Our forefathers,grandfathers went into exile in neighbouring countries.Whilst they were there they never claimed any land or forced to become citizens in those countries.Now foreigners are here is South Africa and making all sorts of demands from our Government.They are affecting our economy in a sense that a South African with a Degree knows that they should be paid between R10-R25000.00.These foreigners accept a mere R1000.00 for the same job.They give birth like mushrooms growing everywhere.They claim they can do this and that i.e 1.Make penisess grown in minutes,2.make you fall pregnant within a few days.How can you fall pregnant if you are not ovulating.3. Your fridge will be full of food,food from where?4.Bring back a lost love.How?.Cant they go back home?Could they not do that in their own Countries
This is a sad yet uplifting story. Sad in that this poor child was left to fend for herself by the person who gave birth to her and has without doubt suffered yet uplifting because she has not just sat back and done nothing about it, she is doing something to improve her life, she has managed to learn a new language (that aint easy no matter who you are) she has set goals for herself, she wants to change history, sad as well that she may not be able to. I would hate to be the one that has to decide her fate, does she stay in SA or do they send her back, there are both pros and cons, should she be granted funding then it is taking the opportunity away from a South African but she seems so worthy of it. It was a nice article to read though, a youngster trying to improve her life and not just expecting life to do for her
If it is possible to adopt a 19 year old, I'll adopt you.
If it is possible to adopt a 19 year old, I'll adopt you.
Got to love this story - hop the border with a fistful of forged documents,find you absconded mother and get immediate SA citizenship, and access to tertiary education funding - isn't this person so luck and all thank to the mallable taxpayer. No wonder our country is awash with citizens of other countries
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