| |THE COMMUNITY...
Mpumuza is an impoverished, semi-rural community 5km outside the town of Hilton, near Pietermaritzburg in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Mpumuza includes Sweetwaters and surrounding areas. It is home to between 50 000 and 60 000 people. Youth and children make up the majority of these people. The Sweetwaters(or Mpumuza) community is vibrant and rich in culture. The people are welcoming and hospitable, and the children are full of life, laughter, and fun. Mpumuza is set in the beautiful rolling hills covered with lush vegetation during the summer months.
Sadly, this beautiful area is also characterized by poor housing and a limited supply of essential services and facilities. Poverty is rife, and most people lack the skills or the capital to produce food
of their own. Unemployment is high and many families rely on government grants to survive.
One of the biggest problems facing people in Sweetwaters/Mpumuza is unemployment. Opportunities for employment are limited. Many residents do not have the skills or education required for the few available jobs. Many local business owners testify to how difficult it is to find people with the basic skills required for many jobs. There is a direct correlation between the high rate of unemployment and the low level of education amongst the people. In 2001 the unemployment rate was over 70%. This figure has improved to some extent; however, reliable statistics for this year are not yet available.
There is a proliferation of primary and high schools in the Mpumuza district, but most are under resourced and under staffed. Class sizes are often much higher than optimum size, especially in the high schools. Possibly the biggest problem is that most of the learners do not learn the required basic skills in early childhood that are foundational to performing well at school and consequently perform poorly when they enter the formal education system.
Many households in Sweetwaters are single parent or child-headed households where there is an absence of adult role models. In addition, alcoholism and drug dependency have created very unhealthy situations in many families. The general lack of a healthy family structure, has meant that children and youth lack good role models, as well as adult supervision and guidance.
Southern Africa remains the region worst affected by HIV/AIDS. The province of Kwa-Zulu Natal has the highest prevalence in the country (39.1%). This has created a situation where there are large numbers of orphans. While some of them are absorbed into the homes of family members (aunts, uncles, etc.) there are also a number of child-headed households. Many young people are poorly educated about HIV/AIDS and sexuality; teen pregnancy in the area is common.
In addition to the problem of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and it's consequences for families and children in particular, many young people are poorly educated about HIV/AIDS and sexuality
and this is confirmed by the number of teen pregnancies in the area.