GROWING PROBLEM OF KOMANI’S STREET CHILDREN
Great concern over growing number roaming the streets
ACENTRE is to be established in the Komani CBD with the aim of assisting street children to gain access to food, toiletries, blankets and clothing.
Growing concern over the number of children roaming the streets of Komani has resulted in the initiative, which is being spearheaded by the Border-Kei Chamber of Business.
The Rep recently spoke to a group of about 30 children, aged between 12 and 17. The majority said they had dropped out of school, with four still attending on an irregular basis.
They said they had decided to leave school as they only received one meal in the morning which left them without food for the rest of the day.
They had since resorted to begging for money near local shopping centres and take-away businesses.
The pupils had dropped out of the primary schools of Nonesi, Thembelihle, Lukhanji, St Theresa’s, Louis Rex, John Noah and Edlelweni and the high schools of Luvuyo Lerumo and Nkwanca.
Most said they came from broken families with no father figures in their lives. They had either been orphaned and left in the care of relatives or were living with grandparents or single, unemployed mothers.
Lukhanji SUPERSPAR owner Sandy Mills, who has been feeding street children for a number of years, said, “A street child is not just a child who lives on the street, but children who take to the streets to look for a means to support a drug habit or to eat. They could still have a home and still be going to school.”
She said after school some children went to local shops to search the bins.
Street children develop behavioural problems when not rescued, eventually reaching a stage where they no longer reacted to discipline.
She said some girls resorted to prostitution.
“They have no education, so this becomes their means of survival. Because no one has intervened, I have lost track of the girls who were in the group when they were young.”
She said community members seldom reported these cases to social workers because they were used to the problem. It should be seen, she said, as a community issue as it could not be solved by social workers.
Mills said the Border-Kei Chamber of Business was working on establishing a centre to support street children with basic necessities. The centre is expected to operate by April next year with clothing, blankets, toiletries and food to be made available to the children.
No drugs, cigarettes, glue or similar substances will be allowed on the premises.
Border-Kei Chamber of Business chairwoman in Komani Adre Bartis said the centre would be based on a token system.
Instead of giving the children money, members of the public would be able to buy tokens at specified points which street children could redeem at the shop at the centre. The buying points had not yet been decided upon.
Bartis said a similar project was introduced in Cape Town and had proved to be a success.
“Working with vulnerable people is always tricky and we can not work without the assistance and support of the department of social development. We have children involved and the public will be participating. We will need to engage with all stakeholders before we can launch the project.”
The Rep has contacted the department of social development in Komani for more than a month, requesting a response on available programmes for street children and intervention made in the lives of such children, but no response had been received at the time of going to press.
ON THE STREET: A group of street children posed for The Rep this week