I am Patience Mkosana.

I grew up in a rural area in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. I failed my final school exams, and my parents were no longer able to support me, so I left home and moved to Cape Town to stay with my sister. I hoped to finish my schooling and then study tourism but that did not happen. In 2002, I was 19 years old and pregnant; there was no time to study due to needing to work to support myself and then my child, as a single mom. My first daughter, Luviwe, is now 19 years old and my second daughter, Nikita, is nine years old. We have no contact or support from their fathers. When I first arrived in Cape Town, I worked as a seasonal worker on a wine farm, and then in some restaurants part time. I am very lucky to now have a full-time job as the housekeeper at our local church. After work I go home to focus on my children, to cook and help them with homework.

I live in Westlake village in an informal settlement in Cape Town. People live in a mix of houses and shacks, all in very close proximity. A house rents space to five or six other shacks or bungalows, which we have to buy and set up in their yard. All these homes share the same water access and source of electricity. Some of the toilets are shared by ten people. We have one shared rubbish bin and rubbish is removed weekly, which is not enough and so it overflows. Our bungalow is around three meters by six meters in size and has two rooms. We are fortunate to be connected to electricity and cold water, as some are not.

The services to our area are not good, although they have improved since I first arrived. At first, there was no primary school and so, from age of six years old, my daughter had to travel to a school in Heathfield, around 5 kilometers away. This was expensive and dangerous. We are very thankful that the primary school was built in 2011 and now my second daughter Nikita is able to walk to school while I am at work. However, there is still no high school in the areas and the teenagers have to travel quite a long way to high school. I am afraid for the girls' safety in a country given there is so much violence against women. They have to travel in groups and the main danger is from school to where they can share a ride. My daughter has to be home by 3pm and if she is even ten minutes late, I start to worry.

Access to electricity and water is the biggest problem. It is up to the owner of the house to pay the water and electricity, and many times the owner does not, and we all get cut off. We then need to walk some distance to the stream to fetch water in buckets and we light lamps.

There is no Wi-Fi in Westlake and so we are not able to connect to the internet at home. This is a big problem for schoolwork and projects and the few internet cafes are very expensive for us.

Alcoholism is a big problem, especially with the men. The women look after the families.

Covid has had a very strong effect on my children. Sometimes they have not been able to go to school at all. This is making studying extra tough for my eldest daughter who is supposed to be finishing her final exams this year. Luckily, we have a mobile phone. During Covid, the only way to get schoolwork is through WhatsApp, but this is very difficult to use, especially for math. Also, there is no Wi-Fi, and the data costs are also very expensive, so this has been very difficult. It is also not safe for the children to go outside when they are not at school and so they need to stay inside when not at school and keep themselves busy.

I am very lucky to still have a job as many of my friends have lost work either completely or in part. Both of my sisters have lost most of their income and so I am helping to support them.

I have a bank account which was opened once I got my full-time job at the church. I do not have a loan at the moment but would like one to buy a house. I would really like to have my own home, but it is very expensive. I earn around 50,000 rand per year (c.US$3,500) and the cost of a house in Westlake is around 500,000 rand (c.US$35,000), which will cost me 10 years of salary. If I want to own a house, I will have to move to another area. I have been given a paper by the government stating that I will be able to get a loan of 109,000 rand (c.US$7,600), but the application process is slow, and the bank has not responded to my emails. I have also been told that I will need to pay a deposit, but I do not know how much, and in any case, I do not have any savings.

We do not get any help from the governments, and it would be good to have a grant of some kind.

I am very thankful for our community who help each other with small jobs like sewing and gardening projects, as well as helping to teach the kids, take them off the street and focus on the future rather than on drugs. Without my faith, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My faith in God also helps me to trust and be patient with everything.

My main hope for the future is to have a home to live in and I would also like to set up my own business. So, I try to make extra money wherever possible. In my village, there are very few business opportunities. But I did notice that none of the shops we have sell ice cream so, in summer, I buy ice-cream in big tubs and sell it from my home in cones. I can buy eggs at 38 rand per tray and then sell them at 50 rand per tray, but this is not a lot of profit and I also have to pay the cost upfront. If I had a home with a yard, I could buy chickens to lay the eggs as well as keeping my job.

I would love my kids to finish school, get some further education, and a job doing something that they love. Luviwe would really like to work in technology and Nikita loves fashion design, but they need to make sure they get through school first.

Patience Mkosana
Cape Town, South Africa