ADDRESSING the lack of school uniforms for the underprivileged pupils, the Children in Distress Network (Cindi) launched its annual initiative, Singatha, which means “to support or embrace one who is vulnerable or sad”, and is appealing to the Pietermaritzburg community to donate uniforms.
“The lack of school uniforms is a barrier to education and results in many children not being able to go to school. We have one of the highest poverty rates in the district and there are children here who literally have nothing,” said Rekha Nathoo, Cindi director.
Singatha was started after a contribution was made by the Oprah Angel Fund.
“She [Oprah Winfrey] donated money to buy uniforms and we have tried to sustain the project. We have now decided to give the initiative an extra boost by getting the public involved to help raise funds and donate uniforms,” said Nathoo.
All the money that the public donates to Cindi is used for the school uniform fund and not for the daily operations of the organisation as the uniform initiative is the priority.
This year the organisation is encouraging the public and schools to get involved in uniform donations. This can either be done through a cash donation, new uniforms or good condition second-hand uniforms.
The uniform sets are made up of boy’s and girl’s black shoes of any size, white shirts, grey jerseys, grey shorts, skirts and trousers and school socks.
“We work with our databases that have information about children who need uniforms and then tailor-make uniform packs for each child, ensuring they have enough of every item to get them through the week. Ideally each child should receive two sets,” said Nathoo.
Through its members Cindi’s work affects over 300 000 orphaned and vulnerable children. With a huge amount of KZN families that are affected by terminal and critical illness, poverty and unemployment, most household income is focused on basic needs.
Adding to this is the high amount of child-headed households where uniforms and supplies are not even a choice or an option.
“Often, at that level of poverty, uniforms are seen as a luxury, whereas for us it is an essential, but because of the financial situation it’s more important to put food on the table than spend money on uniforms.
“As a result, children who have nothing sometimes cannot go to school because they don’t have a uniform. These children as also teased by others who do have,” said Nathoo.
Cindi welcomes any donation to get children ready for school, be it is uniforms or stationery.
“Most times children, who have parents that can afford to buy them stationery, throw away their old pens, pencils and pencil cases. We are appealing to the parents to donate these items, but only if they can still be used.”
The right to education is every child’s right and not having uniforms and school supplies is a barrier to vulnerable and orphaned children.
“There is no greater travesty than children being denied education, not because they’re unwilling, but because they cannot afford books, school supplies and uniforms. A lot of the children our members work with are going to face this problem come the start of the school year in 2017,” she said.