Zinhle’s experience drives her to restore school pupils’ dignity

KwaBhaca resident uses her musical skills to help others

KwaBhaca resident Zinhle Ndevu has made it her mission to assist children from child-headed families and vulnerable homes in her area with sanitary towels, school shoes, uniforms and other basic necessities since 2022.
KwaBhaca resident Zinhle Ndevu has made it her mission to assist children from child-headed families and vulnerable homes in her area with sanitary towels, school shoes, uniforms and other basic necessities since 2022.

If it were up to young KwaBhaca resident Zinhle Ndevu, no child in SA, and certainly not in her hometown, would go to school looking different from their schoolmates. Every child would wear proper school shoes and put on socks and a clean uniform.

“Without shoes, your dignity is compromised. The whole situation affects your self-esteem; you doubt yourself and it completely kills your confidence,” Ndevu said.

Despite being unemployed, the 26-year-old from Mandileni village in rural KwaBhaca in the Umzimvubu local municipality’s ward 14 has become a beacon of hope for her community and young children from poor homes, in particular.

Through her efforts, she has been able to organise school uniforms for pupils who come from child-headed families and vulnerable homes since 2022. She has also organised sanitary towels for hundreds of girls and even gone as far as arranging food parcels for them.

Ndevu, who matriculated in 2015, told the Dispatch her philanthropic efforts were born out of her own misery while in high school.

Her mother, Weziwe Ndevu, a domestic worker, had to return home after falling sick and could not afford to buy her firstborn daughter school shoes.

As a Grade 12 pupil at Huku Senior Secondary, she had no choice but to walk 5km barefoot to school until a good Samaritan donated a pair of school shoes. The only problem — they were two sizes smaller than her feet.

“I was a size five and the shoes were only size three,” she recalled.

“We tried everything to open them up and make them bigger so they could fit, including stuffing them with umgquba (animal compost) and putting them in the sun. My mother told me that is how they did it when they were children.”

“We spent hours trying to squeeze my feet into the tiny shoes and eventually I was able to wear them to school.

“But it was the most uncomfortable thing. I used to cry every time I had to put them on. I had blisters and wounds on my feet.

“I was always in pain and told myself I don’t want my younger brother or any child for that matter to experience what I did.”

Ndevu, a promising musician who writes her own music, could not continue with her studies after matric and pursued a career as a Maskandi musician. In 2017 she found herself inside a studio in KwaBhaca for the first time.

“There was a guy who owned a studio and I would nag him to allow me to record,” she said.

“Eventually, one day he called me to sing back up for a gospel group that was recording, and I guess they were impressed by what they saw.

“I saved some of the money that I got, hoping to record my own album, but that never materialised.”

She later switched to Afro Jazz and released her first extended play (EP) in April this year called Buyekhaya. She also tried to form Maskandi groups in her area.

She said what she saw from some of her young bandmates left her heartbroken.

“Some did not have school shoes and wore takkies or soccer boots to school. Some were forced to wear torn trousers. I knew they probably came from a similar background as mine,” Ndevu said.

In 2022 she approached community development worker Ayanda Langa and told her of her plans to collect sanitary towels to help girls from child-headed families in her municipal ward.

With Langa’s assistance, they wrote to businesses in KwaBhaca asking for donations. Only two businesses responded to their request.

But Ndevu also approached her former teachers and principals for help. They gave to the cause and she was able to donate sanitary towels to at least 50 girls.

In 2023 the pair again approached several businesses for help.

This time KwaBhaca Mall donated 20 pairs of school shoes and brand-new uniforms, while Mthatha-based Kwakhanya Events donated boxes of sanitary towels for more than 100 girls.

This year the duo are planning to host an event where they will donate uniforms and sanitary towels on December 6 and 7. Ndevu said they wanted the beneficiaries to start schooling next year with confidence.

On June 17 she will headline a charity event to raise funds for an orphanage in KwaBhaca.

“I will be performing there as we are trying to raise money for the orphanage.”

Langa, who nominated Ndevu, said: “These days the youth and children are facing the most hardship and lack of belonging within society.

“The reality is that young people in rural areas are the most disadvantaged, with limited opportunities for education and training, as well as employment opportunities and health and social services because of growing incidents of substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, poverty and peer pressure.

“This often leads to many dropping out of school or getting involved in a life of crime.

“Her mission is to restore hope to children who are raising other children due to different reasons such as deaths of their parents or domestic violence.”

Ndevu’s mother told the Dispatch she was so proud of her firstborn, even though she admitted she had been sceptical at first because her daughter was unemployed.



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