Helping Athlone’s troubled youth

These three women plan to tackle issues facing youth in Athlone. From left, are Charlene Rhode, Clarise Dawood, and Sasha-Lee Harker, at the Athlone civic centre.

Three women, who are are originally from Athlone, want to help troubled teens in the area, and they met with mothers last week to learn about problems their children face.

Charlene Rhode, Clarise Dawood, and Sasha-Lee Harker, spoke to about 30 moms who attended the meeting at the Athlone civic centre on Wednesday June 23.

Ward 49 councillor, Rashid Adams, who organised the meeting, said young people were wasting their lives on drugs and gangsterism, and many teenage girls in the area were dropping out of school after falling pregnant.

“Many issues they face stem from their homes and many of them have gone through trauma and don’t know how to cope,” he said. “Many girls have babies in order to receive a Sassa grant, but little do they know how much taking care of a baby costs and how their lives will be affected.”

Ms Rhode said girls lacked self confidence and positive role models and many children had no solid foundation in their lives.

“We want to establish why they drop out of school and teach them basic life skills,” she said. “There is no more perseverance amongst youth; they just give up if they fail at something. They concentrate only on the problems not on finding the root of the issue and coming up with solutions.”

Ms Dawood said they wanted to help youth aged 12 to 18, those going through puberty.

“We want to plant the correct seeds and see it grow. There is a need for intervention in the community,” she said.

Rushda Hassen from Hazendal, said that girls at the age of 12 were already sexually active.

Rushda Hassen, from Hazendal, said girls as young as 12 were already sexually active, and there was a group of girls in the area who walked around in pyjamas and slippers and stood on the corners smoking dagga.

“The adults are doing exactly the same thing, so their daughters don’t know any better. Half of the girls are pregnant and their moms are no role models for them,” she said.

Feroza Adams, from Athlone, who works at the Trauma Centre in Athlone, said that youth especially teenage girls needed adults to confide in.

Feroza Adams, who works at the Trauma Centre in Athlone, said that youth, especially teenage girls, had no one to trust. She said they used dagga and sex as a coping mechanism to handle their issues at home.

Adults should give youth space to find their own identities and what they actually wanted out of life because many didn’t know.

“They are human beings; they also have opinions and thoughts, and they need good role models and a safe space to express themselves. They’ve built up these walls around themselves to protect themselves, and they need help to break them down.

“We must push our children towards their dreams and look at what they want, not only what we want. What’s scary is that what we will teach them will be there for the time they are with us, but they must go home and then they are exposed to that type of environment again,” she said.

Naseerah Clark said that children experienced so much trauma in their lives that they became despondent about life.

Naseerah Clark, from Silvertown, said children experienced a lot of trauma and became despondent about life. Many of them also lived in homes where substance abuse and domestic violence were common.

Children also had stress that could lead to depression and they needed help and not just to be judged.

“We must concentrate on both sexes not only girls. Children don’t know how to deal with trauma, and their parents don’t know how to handle their children’s behaviour, which is a result of unresolved trauma. Dagga is only the start of their troubles. Before they know it, they are stealing and committing all sorts of crimes.”

Amina Rajap said that children had no more respect for their elders and parents treated children as adults. Parks and fields in the area were no longer played in by children but rather used for sex.

“Most parents don’t know how to be parents. They are too young, so they learn as they go along. We need to focus on both youth and parents not only youth, to solve these issues,” she said.