Freedom Mupanedemo Features Writer
IT is said nature would have them children before they are men (Jean Jacques Rousseau), not so for the appropriately named Amazing Phiri!
At the tender age of 12, he has already become a man in his household.
Picture this: On a wintry Tuesday morning, the 12-year-old boy from Vandirai village, in Mberengwa under Chief Chingoma, tries hard to shake off the lethargy of sleep to face yet another hectic day, starting a fire, preparing food for his granny and uncle before dashing off to school.
When death robbed him of both his parents some few years back, and with no other relative to turn to, Amazing was left with the unthinkable task of looking after his 77-year-old blind granny, Gogo Delpher Phiri, and his 56-year-old mentally challenged uncle, Lucah Phiri. He does not have to pretend to play father when playing house because circumstances have made him that already.
He is the head of the house and provider for his granny and uncle. Being a child is a luxury for him. Amazing has to take charge of the household, in terms of decision-making and responsibility for the family. This is no mean feat for a 12-year-old. He has to go to school, too. Everyday, the boy makes sure he wakes up well in time to do household chores. He prepares the fire and at least has to find something to cook for his granny and uncle – who both look up to him.
Food is hard to come by though. But the politics of the belly forces Gogo Phiri and Lucah Phiri to wait for their 12-year-old caregiver to put something on the table. At that age, Amazing should scavenge and make sure that the two are fed.
He is the head of the family. The bread- winner!
And he knows it!
“There is nothing I can do. I have to make sure that they are fed. Everyone who comes to see me here either with some food portions or any form of help tells me to be strong,” says Amazing, who spoke with some kind of confidence that would elude many a teenager. My mother, who was the breadwinner, died some two years ago and I was left to cater for granny and Uncle Lucah. My mother was the first born to granny and her second and last born is Uncle Lucah, who is mentally challenged.”
The 12-year-old orphan says he depends on handouts from neighbours who, from time to time, visit him to see how he is coping with the situation. But at times handouts run dry but life has to go on. He must make sure that he and his two dependants don’t starve.
“I sometimes go out to the village with a begging bowl. Many in the surrounding area know my predicament. When they see me visiting their homesteads with a begging bowl, they know something is amiss and they quickly assist,” he says. Most of them are supportive and sometimes I just come home and find mealie-meal, sugar or salt left by well-wishers while I am away.”
Inspite of his demanding circumstances, Amazing has not given up on school, but the future is bleak. Every morning he wakes up early, makes a fire and prepares food for his two dependants before he grabs his bag and dashes to school. But his debt at his school, Gwayi Primary, continues to accumulate as he has not been paying fees for some time.
”I haven’t paid school fees for the last two years but am just going. At times we are turned away but I am still attending school,” he says.
Gogo Phiri says her life now depends on her grandchild ever since she went blind. She says she cannot do anything and always looks up to Amazing for everything.
“I am now blind and for me to eat or bath, I depend on Amazing. His mother, who was my first born, used to do everything for us, but she is now late. We have been depending on this boy since the death of his mother,” she says. “My other child is mentally challenged and Amazing also makes sure that he feeds and bathes him.”
Gogo Phiri says life has not been rosy for her and her 12-year-old grandson since she lost her sight. She says they were now depending on well-wishers and the boy was being overwhelmed by the task of heading a family at his age.
“He is so young but he found himself heading a family. He fetches water, firewood and prepares food for us. It’s a tough task for someone of his age but he has no choice,” she says.
Mr Pardon Ndlovu, a village head, says the situation was bad for the boy. He says most people in the village knew about the challenges faced by the boy and were doing everything within their means to try and help him out in terms of food.
“We are just poor villagers and we usually give the boy some support. His situation is bad but he is a hero,” he says. “He is somehow managing.”
If anything, Amazing, is an extremely courageous young person who stands out as a symbol of love, hope and kindness, in a world in which these values are increasingly becoming rare.