Thando lived with her parents in the City of Gold. She was very clever at school and she dreamed big. She wanted to go to medical school to study medicine. She was a beautiful and kind person. She knew how to behave in front of adults, she wasn’t like other girls.

One day, while visiting her grandmother, she received a call from her father.

“Hello Dad, are you missing me already?” she asked.

“Hi, is this Thandolwethu Kunene?” a voice asked.

“Yes, it’s her speaking, what wrong?” Thando was scared of what might have happened to her father.

“Thando I am very sorry, your father and mother were in and accident. When we arrived at the scene it was already too late.”

When Thando’s grandmother saw her crying, she took the phone from the floor, where Thando had dropped it when she heard the news.

“Hello, I’m Thando’s grandmother. Can you please tell me why my granddaughter is crying?” she said.

“Ma’am, your son and daughter-in-law were involved in an accident whereby both of them died,” the paramedic said.

Thando’s grandmother cried out. “Oh my God! My son…My son is dead!”

The paramedic finished the call off by saying, “I’m sorry about your son and daughter in-law.”

Two weeks later, Thando decided to go live with her grandmother at Umlazi. She wasn’t feeling well, but her grandmother spoke to her. She told Thando that time heals, she just has to accept it and that that’s how life works. Thando’s grandmother took Thando to uMbilo Secondary School where Thando continued with her education. It was difficult for her, because she had to make new friends again.

She became friends with a group of girls who were nothing but trouble. Thando’s marks at school dropped and she came home late. Her grandmother was worried about her, because her teachers were complaining about her behaviour and marks that were dropping. Teachers had never complained about Thando before.

She lost respect. She wasn’t like the old Thando that her grandma knew. The new Thando was getting herself into trouble regularly. Will Thando be back to her old self, her poor grandmother thought. She was sick because of the stress that Thando was giving her. Thando didn’t know that she was killing her grandmother because she didn’t really spend time with her grandma.

She went out with friends and came home drunk; such times she didn’t even know her own name. When she didn’t come home by herself, there would be boys that brought her home. Sometimes she would say that she was studying at her friend’s house, but she wasn’t, she was going to go see her new boyfriend. She spent most of her time with him. Her grandma warned her about boys, but she wouldn’t listen. All she cared about was parties, getting drunk and having sex. She didn’t care about school or how important her education and future was.

One day, Thando’s friend came looking for her because they were attending a big party together. She was busy having dinner but left her food right there and lied to her grandma about where she was going. But her grandma knew.

At the party there were plenty of drugs and alcohol. The hosts were wealthy people with fancy clothes and cars. It was the party of the year. Thando was wearing her best clothes in order to look sexy and to attract men. Some of the people at that party were married and had wives and children. But they their wives and children were the last things on their minds as there were plenty of very attractive young girls.

Everyone had their own sugar Daddy, including Thando. The music was great. Thando and her friends started snorting cocaine because people said it was great stuff. They tried it and completely loved it. They wanted more, but as one of the party rules, they were not allowed to have more, in case one of them overdosed. The hosts didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Thando then found herself having sex with one of the married men in his car. She had never had sex, it was her first time.

Thando’s grandmother was sick with stress because it was getting late. The next morning her grandma checked the time again and it was 5 a.m. and Thando had still not come back. She came home just after 8 a.m. Her grandma lost it and yelled at her. She wanted to know why Thando only came home at that time of the morning, the sun was up already. But Thando ignored her and went straight to her bedroom, where she remained sleeping for the rest of that day. Thando had chores she had to do but her grandma had to cook and wash the dishes, which was Thando’s job.

Thando became more and more stubborn and strong-headed towards her grandma. She spoke to her grandma as if they were friends, which her gran didn’t like or appreciate. But Thando couldn’t care any less about hurting her grandma. Her gran’s blood pressure was high because of the emotional roller coaster Thando had put her through. While Thando was texting on her phone, ignoring her gran, her grandma was busy dying.

She was oblivious until her grandma screamed for help. It was only then that she noticed how sick her gran was and that it was all her fault. She ran to the neighbour’s house to go ask for help. They came and helped by taking her grandmother to the hospital. They arrived at just the right time. Thando was praying for her gran to survive. She realised that she didn’t want to lose another person that she loved. She now regretted her attitude and behaviour towards her grandmother.

It was the anger of losing two parents at the same time that caused her to be the way she was. But she didn’t have to be angry with her grandmother, it wasn’t her fault. Her gran experienced the same pain Thando did, she had lost a child. It was God’s decision to let them go, everything happened for a reason.

“Are you her granddaughter?” the doctor asked and she nodded. “We’ve managed to bring down your grandmother’s blood pressure and we are trying our best to manage it.” Thando thanked him and asked if her grand would be okay, the doctor reassured her that she was.

Afterwards she was thinking about what she had done to her grandmother and the thought that that might have killed her gran devastated her. On her way to her home, the taxi she was in hit another car and rolled off the road. Three people died but the rest of the passengers survived. Thando was one of the survivors and was rushed to hospital with minor injuries.

When she arrived at the hospital she asked the hospital staff not to let her gran know that she was there, because she was afraid that her gran would get sick again. They checked if she had any serious injuries and some blood tests. When the doctor returned with the results, he informed her that she was pregnant and HIV positive.

Out of shock, she cried as thoughts of what would happen next ran through her mind. She wondered how she was going to break the news to her grandmother and decided against telling her out of fear for her health. Thando was discharged from hospital and visited her grandmother. Her gran was doing much better than she was when she was brought in and the doctor told them that he was going to discharge her the following day.

Thando was happy that her gran would be going back home. She apologised to her gran for the trauma, stress and grief that she had caused her. Things then went back to the way they were before, Thando and her gran had a good and happy relationship again. They were both grateful to be blessed with each other. When visiting hours at the hospital were over, Thando made her way back home. She was thinking about the current situation she was in – and if she should tell her gran the truth. That night she couldn’t sleep. She was still in school, she would have to take ARVs for the rest of her life and how was she going to raise a baby on her own, she thought.

The next morning Thando went back to the hospital, carrying her gran’s clothes with her. On her way there she thought of her gran’s reaction again if her she found out that Thando was HIV positive and pregnant, the humiliation that would cause their family. She arrived at the hospital and gave her gran the clothes to change into. Afterwards they made their way to the taxi to go home.

On their way home, Thando told her gran that there was something important that her gran had to know and told her the truth. Her gran was shocked at hearing that she was pregnant and HIV positive. Her gran told her that she had warned Thando about men and reckless sex. She berated her about the humiliation both of them would face if people had to find out. Then she told Thando that she had to leave school because school was for children, not mothers. And told her that she would help and support her where she could.

Thando left school and continued begging her gran’s forgiveness. Her gran eventually forgave her then they were happy again. Her gran even reminded her to take her treatment at times when she forgot. Five months later, Thando gave birth to a healthy baby. After the birth of her child, Thando’s gran advised her to go back to school and offered to take care of the baby when she was in school. She took her grans advice and returned to school to finish her secondary education.


Tell us: Do you know a lot of teenagers who go through what Thando goes through? How do you think society can help them?