Explore impact and effect of poverty has on development of children in south Africa
How Poverty Affects the Development of Children in South Africa
How Poverty Affects the Development of Children in South Africa
63% of the children in South Africa are directly affected by poverty (UNICEF, 2012). Child poverty is brought about by a myriad of factors such as adult poverty, lack of education, lack of parental disposable resources, segregation and isolation in residential areas, unplanned pregnancies and an increase in the number of single-parent families. Child poverty affects the child’s participation and outcomes in education, socialization, health, fertility, labour and even the income they receive or settle for when they are employed (Aliber, 2003). The children may also display tendencies of emotional imbalance such as cases of impulsive behaviour, and they may have trouble forming and maintaining positive relationships with their peers. Child poverty has also been termed a major contributor to the rising cases of unplanned teenage pregnancies in South Africa (UNICEF, 2012)
Children raised in conditions of poverty are affected by their education and may have trouble performing well compared to other children in their classes. The poor performance can be attributed to lack of adequate basic resources for education such as textbooks and other forms of school stationery. A child who gets to go to school but does not access the basic necessities for learning to take place may have trouble producing the same educational results compared to other children who have minimal or no difficulty in accessing said stationery (Wilson, 1989). They may be required to read from a book for school work which may be examined but being that the child cannot access the book, they lack understanding of what is required and will probably end up failing the exam.
Children from low-income families may also have difficulty in the payment of their school fees. As such, these children may end up skipping school so many times due to being sent home by the school to have their school fee balance cleared. Even in cases where a parent takes their child to a public school where payment of fee is not needed, the parent may still have difficulty in buying the child some other necessities such as schoolbooks or even school uniforms. A child may not understand why they are the only ones in school with tattered uniforms when everyone else is well dressed. The affected child may end up isolating themselves from the rest of their classmates (Sampson, 2002).
A relationship with their peers is important as children may be asked to carry out some school tasks in tasks. Therefore, a child who has isolated themselves will not be able to participate in these activities effectively and may, therefore, end up not performing well in school.
The other way poverty affects a child’s education is hunger and lack of parental concern and input in their education. Children from poor families may be forced to go to school on an empty stomach. For such a child, concentrating in school becomes hard as they will be distracted by hunger pangs. A parent’s lack of input in a child’s education comes in when the parent spent the day doing menial labour and when they get back home, they are too tired to even bother in helping their children out with their homework (Humble & Dixon, 2017). The parent might also be uninterested in the child’s education. To them, education may be a waste of time which could have been spent by the child working to help earn income for the family.
Poor households may also affect a child’s performance in school due to unavailability of requirements for the child to study at home. Lack of electricity of kerosene for lumps may hinder the child from doing their homework hence having an effect on their education.
Physical and Emotional Development
A child’s physical and emotional development is also affected physically and emotionally. A study conducted by the University of Cape town children’s institute and the South African Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation in 2016 found that 46% of the expectant women in South Africa sought medical checkup well into their 20th week of pregnancy. Lack of early medical checkup means that the mother does not access folic acid and iron supplements early enough and this may result in the child being born with a folic acid deficiency, Vitamin A deficiency, and anemia (Zere & Dianne, 2003). Late checkup affects the mother as it may lead to antenatal depression. When the mother is distressed, they may not feed well, and this affects the children by denying them adequate necessary nutrition. The child may end up being born underweight and other nutrient-related birth complications. The study also found out that most children borne of poor parents do not receive timely immunization. The study reported that only 5% of children delivered were brought in for a checkup after 6 days.
Emotionally, children born in low-income families are highly susceptible to depression (Cluver, & Don, 2003). The children, born in low-income families may be ridiculed by their peers from financially stable families for their lack of good food and clothing. For such a child, this is equivalent to being rejected and being labelled inadequate. They may, therefore, internalize the feeling of being unwanted and if no adult is there to reassure them and the bullying continues, the child may start asking what they did wrong which may lead to depression. The child may believe that no one loves them and may start isolating themselves from the rest of society. The isolation makes it hard for anyone to take note of any signs of impending depression hence delayed help. Isolation and depression is a tragic combination for adults and the effect on children is unimaginable. The child may also start exhibiting impulsive behaviour. Even though every child has some level of impulsivity, children born of low-income families are more prone to impulsively falling for promises of a better future. In South Africa, this can be seen in the rising number of young people involved in gangs, drugs and those reported for other forms of activities that break the law. When a child is raised in a low-income family, they are always dreaming of better days; therefore, any type of activity that promises to make their lives better is welcome. The child may unknowingly engage in illegal activity such as being asked to deliver packages to people in exchange for money (Hall et al., 2016). Before they realize it, they are fully involved in illegal activities which all begun with someone taking advantage of their emotional vulnerability.
Lack of proper nutrition also affects the child’s development. Low-income families are not able to afford to buy food constantly, and when they do, the food is usually the cheapest thing that can be found in the market. The family may end up feeding on the same type of food for a long time. The lack of nutritional variety in feeding eventually leads to malnutrition. A child who lacks variety in food may succumb to nutritional deficiency diseases such as kwashiorkor and marasmus. The stunted growth and bodily deformation that come about due to these conditions may result in further ridicule by other children causing the affected child to feel unwanted thus an increased risk of becoming depressed which may result in self-destructive behaviour (Duflo, 2003). Depression is dangerous especially for children in their teenage years who are seeking to be loved.
Poverty indirectly affects children’s cognitive development. The early life of a child is very important for a child’s cognitive development. The activities a child is exposed to between conception to when the child is six years of age are great determinants in how the child’s cognitive development turns out. In South Africa, there is immense inequality which consequently hampers the child’s access to better developmental activities. Giese (2016) noted that in children from wealthy families in South Africa have access to better early childhood education. The quality of education that is given to young children from low-income families greatly affects their later education performances. The Cape Town University reflects this in the same study. They report that 40% of children from low-income families are unable to perform well to reach the expected levels in numeracy. This is attributed to children in low-income families always playing catch up to the children who received good early childhood education which sets a good foundation for the learning of numbers and language. They also observed that the poorest performances were recorded for the children in the poorest families. When a child is not able to obtain a quality education and exposure as a child, their educational performance is affected which will consequently affect their success as adults hence continuing the circle of poverty.
Play and interaction with caregivers are important for children who are young and growing up. The child, through social learning, emulates the activities of the caregiver which is why caregivers are always encouraged to read to children, sing to them, play with them and even tell them stories (Beegle, 2016). However, in low-income families, caregivers do not have the time to do all the above with children as they are busy working. Caring for the child is, therefore, left to the older siblings who may only be older by like 2 or 3 years. The child thus lacks basic training such as toilet training which would have been more effective when administered by an understanding and loving adult as compared to when it is done by young children tired of performing tasks meant for adults and are in a rush to get back to their play. For such young caregivers, with their impatience and lack of understanding of proper toilet training approaches, when the child messes their clothes, the caregiver may admonish the child making them feel ashamed of themselves. According to Freud, the child may end up developing anal retentive behaviour. Therefore, the child ends up failing in the first instance of learning thus affecting their cognitive development. They also become affected in the long term by being anal retentive which may result in conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D) which may consequently affect their adult life.
Income and Employment Opportunities
In the employment world, it is not about what one knows; it is about who one knows. Children from low-income families may not be having the same types of connections compared to the rich children. In South Africa, this is shown by the number of young people who end up doing manual labour to earn income despite having studied to the same levels if not even higher. For this children, they go through all the hardships at school, work hard to finish school with good grades and when they finally finish, they end up almost always working the same jobs as their counterparts who never set foot in a school way. This is because the rich parents know people who are in a position to offer their children jobs and end up landing an internship or even employment for their children. Having a parent who helps them in job seeking is not a luxury the child from the low-income family will enjoy since the parents are preoccupied with earning enough to put the next meal on the table.
The poor children also end up working for minimum wage and even in some cases, below minimum wage (Streak and Servaar, 2009). This is brought about by the segregation in living arrangements. Given that the rich and poor of South Africa live so far away from each other and are isolated even when it comes to education, the poor child may lack opportunities to learn how the reach live their lives, their ways of bargaining and negotiation and how they go about conducting their business. A rich child is from a very young age taught to know their worth and appreciate themselves and not allow anyone to put them down. This is not the case for a poor child who has been raised in deplorable conditions and who will readily agree to any kind of income as long as it means they will be getting paid. For this child, any amount of money will mean a slight change in the living conditions back at home, and for this child, any type of income, minimum or not is highly welcome. They end up allowing themselves to be shortchanged. This explains the number of people in South Africa who continue to work very demanding jobs but will refuse to quit or ask for a raise because to them, any type of income is better than none.
According to Mkhwanazi (2010), the number of unplanned teenage pregnancies in the nation is alarming and continues to grow at a steady rate. The pregnancies are said to be in girls of school going ages who are mainly from low-income families. In wanting to look like their age mates from low-income families, poor children may end up prostituting themselves in exchange for money from older men who are capable of giving them the things they cannot get from their families such as jewellery, perfume, and trendy clothes. Having no knowledge of safe sex, the girls end up getting pregnant by people they will probably not see again leading to the increased rise of single mothers. An uneducated young lady will find it hard to take care of a child by themselves since caring for children requires so much energy and resources. A mother, unable to provide third for their children, ends up living in poverty hence another cycle of poverty continues (Mkhwanazi, 2010).
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Beegle, K., Christiaensen, L., Dabalen, A., & Gaddis, I. (2016). Poverty in a rising Africa. World Bank Publications.
Cluver, Lucie, Frances Gardner, and Don Operario. “Poverty and psychological health among AIDS-orphaned children in Cape Town, South Africa.” AIDS Care 21.6 (2009): 732-741.
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