South Africa has an estimated 4 million orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s), with a growing number of them living in sibling led households.
Fatherless children often grow up angry and insecure with a deeply impoverished self-esteem, a stilted understanding of right and wrong, and a distorted view of masculinity. Research done by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation highlights just how severe this can become: “This gross desensitisation to violence, killing and death and the lack of empathy and compassion expressed by these young men, suggests the total collapse of the boundaries between good and bad in the lives of these youth”. Children are growing up damaged and dangerous. By failing to father millions of children SA is raising a virtual army of angry, wounded adults capable of violent crime without remorse.
FAN has been running a programme in Bophelong in the Vanderbijl Park region of Gauteng since July 2010. The programme employs twenty two men as fulltime mentors to OVC’s in the community.
With high levels of unemployment, substance abuse, and rape Bophelong is a community in crisis. Fatherlessness is rife. Three high schools and five primary schools serve a population of close to a hundred thousand residents. The FAN programme provides mentors (FANS) to over eighty orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s) from over fourty households. The FANS are men who were selected from the community and taken through an intensive programme of restoration and equipping for their role as mentors and surrogate fathers to OVC’s.
There are a number of critical elements to the programme:
- Selection of the right candidates
- A programme which effectively restores and equips men,
- Setting up a mentoring relationship between the FANS and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s)
A monitoring and evaluation structure which ensures the integrity and effectiveness of the fathering process
- Ongoing development and support of the FANS
- Provision of effective programmes for the OVC’s in the areas of personal development, sport, art, and culture.
We currently have over 80 orphans and vulnerable children on the programme from 42 different households.
Some of the cases we are dealing with are nothing short of tragic. In one of the households we have taken on a fourteen year old boy. His mother had five children with four different men and died last year from AIDS. The only adult in the house is an ailing grandmother who has no control whatsoever over the children. The young boy and a group of his friends are alleged to have repeatedly raped his half sister who is twelve years old. He is involved in a range of delinquent behavior such as theft, vandalism, and substance abuse. We have allocated one of the older, wiser FANS to the home and have been slowly gaining an understanding of the dynamics that drive him, and have seen a substantial shift in his behaviour.
There are over 1,000 learners benefitting from our tutoring programme in the 3 high schools in Bophelong.