A LONE wooden cabin crookedly leans against propping poles like an exhausted pugilist being kept from falling onto the canvas by some ropes.
Battered by weather elements and voracious termites, it is just a matter of time before the cabin goes down for the count.
Even more battered by cruel fate of deceased parents and callous relations is 11-year-old Proud Mahova, who appears too young for her age because of malnutrition.
The patchwork uniform she dons is held together valiantly by so many stitched patches that she resembles the progeny of the monster, Frankenstein.
She wears shoes; well, a more accurate description would be: Worn out soles with sewn coverings that allow several toes to protrude.
Thus attired Proud prepares to leave for school where she has to endure the cruel torment and torture of other children.
Without any books or pens, Proud waves goodbye to her sister, her only relative that can be bothered by her prdicament.
She stops by the roadside to let pass the speeding commuter omnibuses.
This scene is not plucked out of some remote rural setting, forgotten by time. But this is Harare and Proud is about to cross the Harare-Bulawayo road and embark on a long journey to Warren Park 6 Primary school.
More often than not, stories of rural children living in abject poverty are awash, but not much is said about the many poverty-stricken urbanites who are also bearing the brunt of an unforgiving economy that has turned their lives into living nightmares.
Some are suffering in silence and their voices or cries for help are rarely heard because much attention is focused on children from marginalised rural areas.
However, the situation on the ground points to the fact that a large number of urban children are wallowing in muddy pools of poverty, their rights forgotten and their needs unmet, while their prospects have been damaged by conditions that threaten their health and undermine their development.
Proud stays in a one-roomed cabin with her sister Prisca, her husband and their three children. The small room cannot accommodate six people, which makes it a health hazard for the family because the conditions expose them to numerous diseases caused by over-crowding.
As if this was not enough, their cabin, which has been their home for the past seven years is located in a home industrial area near a place called Mr Planka along the Harare-Bulawayo road where the family lives in perpetual fear, scared that one day it will be razed rendering them homeless.
“We do not have access to clean water, we use wells and it is by the grace of God that we have not contacted cholera. Besides my sibling Proud, I have three children, a five-year old daughter and a set of two-year old twins. These children will all be raised in poverty unless something happens and it eats my heart,” said Prisca.
Putting food on the table is no mean feat for the family. Twenty-five-year old Prisca is unemployed and her husband is a part time builder in an economy that has been relentlessly unforgiving.
“We are literally surviving on handouts,” said a visibly distraught Prisca.
“When our parents died, our relatives dumped us and it has been hell ever since. If it had not been for an organisation called Adopt a Child Zimbabwe Trust, Proud would not have been going to school right now. They have been paying for her fees for the past two years, but she still needs books, food and uniforms which I am failing to provide for her.”
Despite it being a right for every citizen to have an identity document, Proud does not even have a birth certificate because one of her uncles based in Gokwe took her father’s identity document and the death certificate. This will jeopardise her chances of proceeding further than Grade Seven.
Her third term 2015 report showed that the young girl has potential to go beyond Grade Seven.
“Our family is struggling, but I am determined to have a better life than this. I stay up late reading because I want to realise my dream of becoming a doctor,” said a defiant Proud.
Research has shown that African children in particular are still mired in terrible situations, causing quite a predicament. In a 2013 report, the World Bank estimated that up to 400 million children under the age of 17 worldwide lived in extreme poverty, the majority of them reside in Asia and Africa.
The 2012 census report concluded that 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is under 15 years and around 34 percent live in urban areas — close to half of the total children in the country.
ZIMSTAT’s 2012 poverty report revealed that one in every four children in Zimbabwe aged between zero and 17 years was living in households considered to be in extreme consumption poverty, below the food poverty line (FPL) and that one in two were living in poor households, with per capita consumption expenditures above the FPL, but below the total consumption poverty line (TCPL). By Tendai Makaripe
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