“…[Before] the past weeks that we were together I never talked about what I felt or how I felt and never talked about the loss of my dad. You guys helped me a lot to deal with my sadness and the loss of the person that I love. I do not know how to thank you enough. I am a new person thanks to you.”

Teachers, social workers, child psychologists and child and community care workers across South Africa and Africa, are overburdened with the numbers of children in desperate need and there are simply not enough resources to specifically address the needs of those suffering from bereavement.

Why is our work important?

It is a fact that school aged children who have experienced the death of a parent, other family member or close friend have a bigger risk of developing mental health problems and difficulties in school, both academically and socially. Grieving children often have no place to go and no one to talk to. If they do not find emotional and psychological support, bereaved children may develop further difficulties. For example, bereaved children are at higher risk for physical and sexual abuse, and are less able to develop resilience to vulnerability due to their unresolved trauma.

Research undertaken in South Africa by Thurman et al (2006) shows the high levels of sexual risk of orphans. In the context of the HIV epidemic in South Africa, these young people are not only at risk of pregnancy but also of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

A Childs Rights Approach

Khululeka’s approach to children who have experienced grief and bereavement is founded on a respect for the child’s right to access the support he or she needs to ensure their optimal development, for their fundamental human rights, and for their right to have their needs met on their terms.

While both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the Charter) are silent on children’s rights in the face of grief and bereavement specifically, a number of articles in both these human rights documents provide support for the notion that children have the right to appropriate support when they have experienced trauma. For example, Article 39 of the UNCRC states that:

States/Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; [—]. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.


A Case Study of Khululeka

In June 2011, Khululeka facilitated a 4 day training workshop for 10 special needs teachers from the rural Free State. This training was offered in partnership with the Department of Basic Education and Childline (in collaboration with Child Welfare).

The teachers then implemented support groups in school, and an external evaluator, Andre J van Rensburg, undertook an evaluation of a support group offered at Diamanthoogte Combined School in Koffiefontein.

Some excerpts from the report are as follows: (For a full copy of the report, please contact us.)

[At] the beginning of the programme, the kids wouldn’t open up. They didn’t know exactly how to interpret their feelings, they have always been feeling something but didn’t have a word for it and […] so they would react in different ways and not know how to deal with situations on a daily basis. But now the sharing has improved.
What I really like about the Khululeka manual is the structure […] there is a lot of freedom within the structure […] I have changed and adapt[ed it] appropriate to the age group and the context of the children that I am working with.