GROW­ING PROB­LEM OF KO­MANI’S STREET CHIL­DREN

Great con­cern over grow­ing num­ber roam­ing the streets

The Rep - - FRONT PAGE - ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

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.

Pic­ture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

ON THE STREET: A group of street chil­dren posed for The Rep this week

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