Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini aims to up the maximum age for the child support grant from 18 to 23.

Durban - Nosifiso Ngcobo is holding her breath, hoping for a chance to better her life after news that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini aims to up the maximum age for the child support grant from 18 to 23.

The grant is for orphans and children placed in homes by the state.

Nosifiso’s dream of studying hospitality came crashing down earlier this year, when she ran out of neighbours to borrow money from for her taxi fare to college.

She had passed her first year at the Coastal FET College in KwaMakhutha, south of Durban, last year. All that the 21-year-old orphan – whose name means “dreamer” – wanted was to complete her studies and build a future in the tourism industry.

“For the whole of last year I struggled to get taxi fares to the college. I passed and this year I tried to continue with my studies. But in March, I could not get anyone to help me with the money, so I decided to stop attending classes,” she said.

Nosifiso, whose parents died five years ago, was forced to give up her dreams and she became like many of her peers in Adams Mission village who have given up because of their impoverished lives.

She was astounded when she was told about the minister’s proposed change to the policy.

“That would be great because I really need money for the taxi to get to college. Now I’m just idling at home and hustling around the neighbourhood for a plate of food. My brother and I are completely dependent on neighbours for food.

“But the worst scenario is that I had accepted the reality that I would never realise my dreams of becoming a better person,” she said.

Dlamini said early last week she proposed the policy amendment because she felt once young people turned 19, they were left to fend for themselves.

She said the government was looking at supporting young people until they completed their tertiary education and were able to stand on their own two feet.

Dlamini’s spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant said, “Once a young person reaches the age of 19, social development says you are now old and security services are ceased. Foster parents are also unable to get a government support grant for them.

“Although we are saying, if they pass matric they should go to FET (further education and training) college, how do they get to the FET?” she asked.

She said terminating grants meant that young people growing up in children’s homes would be sent out on to the streets to fend for themselves.

Mandy Goble, the director of Durban Children’s Home, welcomed Dlamini’s proposal. Her institution houses 74 young people, of which four are already over the age of 18. The two eldest will soon turn 22. Those placed in children’s homes each get more than R2 300 a month, while those living in foster homes get only R310.

“We now and again approach the department for an extension of grants for young people who are still studying and not older than 21.

“But for people already over 22 years there is nothing we can do but let them go,” she said.

She said the institution released the young people to families willing to accommodate them until they were able to sustain themselves.

The Mercury