An eight year-old girl’s dream of becoming a medical doctor has been given a lifeline after the Mpumalanga Department of Education agreed to give her a conditional admission at a local school.
Like most children her age, Sibongile Mgwenya was looking forward to her first day at school when schools re-opened last month, however when her grandmother, Thembile Mgwenya (70) tried to register her at Bongani Primary School at Daantjie village near Mbombela, the principal refused because she did not have a birth certificate.
Provincial department spokesman Jasper Zwane confirmed that the department’s policy prohibits the admission of children without valid documents.
“The department (wishes) to state that it is obligatory for parents to produce the required documentation before their children can be admitted in schools. In the case of the learner in question, the department will advise the school to admit her conditionally for three months while the family is sorting out the matter of soliciting the required documents from the relevant offices,” said Zwane.
Sibongile, through no fault of her own, does not have a birth certificate.
Her mother abandoned her when she was about two months old, and ever since, her grandmother has tried unsuccessfully to get her documented.
“I’ve been to the Department of Home Affairs on countless occasions, but they declined the application because the mother of the child was not there,” said Mgwenya senior.
Mgwenya said that she also made several trips to offices of the Department of Social Development at Daantjie, Msogwaba and Mbombela for assistance, but all her efforts did not bear fruit.
That was just the beginning of young Sibongile’s misfortune, because when she was three years old, she fell sick and started vomiting.
She was admitted at the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela where the medical personnel inserted a drip between her toes in what Sibongile’s granny believes was an intravenous administration of medication.
However, Mgwenya said there was something extraordinary with the manner in which the drip was attached – Sibongile’s little foot had been squeezed very tightly with a bandage, apparently to keep the drip intact.
She said that while she was concerned about the tight bandage, she did not question the medical personnel because she trusted the hospital.
A few days later however, a heartbroken Mgwenya had to fetch her granddaughter from the hospital with four of her toes amputated.
“The medical personnel at the hospital told me that she developed complications and they had to cut her foot, and I immediately knew that the complications resulted from the manner in which they had squeezed her foot with the bandage,” said Mgwenya.
When she visited the hospital a while later, she was told that her file had disappeared.
The spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Health, Dumisani Malamule, confirmed that Mgwenya’s medical records could not be found at the hospital.
“Admission books of the paediatric ward were checked for December 2011 and January 2012 no child by that name were found in the admission books. At the admission office the child’s name was entered on the computerised system and the only names that came up under that name and surname were adults,” he said.
Malamule said that the hospital did not make the file to disappear.
The departments of social development and home affairs failed to respond to enquiries. Until they both address little Sibongile’s plight, she will have to depend on her granny’s old age pension and will grow up uneducated and undocumented.
When Sibongile plays with other children her age at her grandmother’s yard, she seems unaware that she was failed by people her health was entrusted with, but perhaps instinctively, she believes that her mission on earth is to restore other people’s health.
“I want to be a doctor. I want to heal people,” she said.