Zodwa Malatji from Plastic City struggles to make ends meet but says she is determined to get her four children to school some 40 km away. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro/GroundUp
Hundreds of thousands of learners across South Africa made their way to schools for the first day of the third term on Tuesday. For Zodwa Malatji and her children, just getting to school is a daily battle.

“I want my children to get an education and not end up as waste pickers like myself,” says Malatji.

Malatji and her four children, aged eight, ten, 14 and 16, live in a one-room shack with plastic for a roof at Plastic City informal settlement on the outskirts of Brakpan. They share a communal toilet with ten other households.

She earns about R150 a week collecting recycling material. Most of her income, she says, is spent on transport for her children who attend schools in Duduza, some 40km away. They have to take two taxis to and from school, often arriving late. When she doesn’t have enough money, they stay home. Malatji has been unable to find a place for her children at schools closer to Brakpan.

“We are taken for granted because we live in a poor community. Our children should have buses which take them to school like in other communities,” says Malatji.

Her eldest son, aged 20, dropped out of school in grade 9 to help support his siblings. He now collects recycled material.

Every day she scours Brakpan collecting items to recycle.

In her battle to make ends meet, Malatji often has to borrow money from local money lenders (mashonisas) to pay for her children’s transport. While she gets child support grants for her children, she says, the card where the money is paid into is kept by the mashonisa as collateral. “That mashonisa is a good man. He takes the money I owe bit by bit and even brings me change,” she says.

The mashonisa has had her social grant card for the past six months. She currently owes him about R2 000.

Malatjie moved from her family house in Duduza seven years ago. She says she applied for an RDP house in 1999, but has yet to be allocated a home.

“If only I can get a house in a place where my children can attend school nearby, it would be a dream come true,” she says.

This article was first published on GroundUp