Teens are children too
At last, South African teens will get help from the state until they’re 18.
(Shawn Benjamin)
From January next year, teens from 15 to 18 will be included in child grants, government announced recently.

No doubt there will be some rumblings about the huge cost to the state of including these older children.  The total cost to the state would be R1.3bn, R2.6bn, and R3.5bn respectively over the next three years, according to government spokesman Themba Maseko.

About 2 million poverty-stricken children will eventually benefit from this extension.

But the true number of children who will gain something from the tiny R240 per month grant is actually much higher.

According to Children Count, four years ago there were already an estimated 118 500 children living in about 66 500 child-headed households.

These households are headed by teens no older than 17, meaning that the wider reach of the child care grant will assist all the children in the household. Then there are the many households where parents, grandparents or other caregivers will now have just a little extra to put towards the care of their families.

By anyone’s count R240 per month is not an excessive amount. Many people would spend a similar amount in one evening on a meal and a bottle of wine. But for these children, it is a small token of some care shown to them by a society that marginalises and ignores them.

Will there be abuse of the grant? Probably. Where there’s money, there are vultures who might prey on the kids, con or coerce the money out of them. There will be adults who use the extension of the grant to get money for drugs or alcohol, with little or no benefit going to the children. We can only hope that this will be a minority of cases.

But it’s still a giant positive step for the child care grant to include children to the age they could be finishing school, rather than abandoning them at 14. Surely in any decent society we do not expect children of that age to be making their own way in the world yet?

Looking at the teens around me - with their concerns about doing well in sport and at school, fitting in well in a peer group and deciding on a career path - I can only feel relieved that other, less privileged teens will now have it acknowledged by the state: a teenager is not an adult. Not quite yet.

Do you think the extension of the child grant is a good thing?

Read more by Adele Hamilton

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