Sleeping on the sidewalk: a look at Grahamstown’s street kids

Poverty is an ever-present issue in South Africa, but why does Grahamstown have so many children on the streets? Leigh Raymond and Judy Dlamini investigate.

 

Jan Knoetze, the director of the Rhodes University Psychology Clinic refers to children who live on the street as marginalised, or at risk. The children that can be seen on the streets every day may be in danger not only from cars and hunger, but from other children and sometimes even their own parents.

There is great concern for the well-being of these children, and some caring Grahamstown residents have taken the first steps to securing their well-being. Jabu van Niekerk from the Raphael Centre, Grahamstown’s Aids orphanage, says that all of the children that the centre takes in come from underprivileged backgrounds. “Those who live in poverty are more vulnerable to HIV/Aids.”

Eluxolweni Boys’ Shelter, which was established in the early 1990s, takes in up to 35 boys at a time, but Senior Child Care-giver Luyanda Matiwane says that there is always a problem with space. The shelter provides for the children’s basic needs as well as providing rehabilitation programmes and access to church activities. The shelter is alerted to the plight of children by the police or concerned citizens. They also have children coming to the shelter on their own accord.

Eluxolweni currently cares for boys from eight to 18 years old. At 18 the children are either reunited with their parents or are offered temporary shelter at Halfway House Orphanage.

Trotter street shelter takes in girls who are 11 years old and above. The girls are referred by teachers or social workers and have mostly also come from a background of abuse and mistreatment from their parents, says Yoliswa Dube who is involved with the care of the girls.

Girls from Trotter street shelter and boys from the Eluxolweni shelter attend the Amasango Career School. Amasango provides the children with basic literacy and numeracy skills up until the age of seven, after which the children will attend township schools. The school also facilitates the movement of the older pupils into the working world by giving them a skills-based education. Beryl Shumane, an Amasango Career School educator, says that the pupils arrive at the school with low self-esteem problems and the overcrowded classes are a problem because this makes the children very violent; the concern of this situation is that the children will go back onto the street.

The children at Eluxolweni are also provided with psychological counselling from the Rhodes Psychology Clinic and Fort England. Knoetze says that the main goal of the clinic’s contact with the children is to provide them with hope. “They are people. Like all other children they need security and hope and guidance and love,” he says. The Psychology Clinic also works with the Amasango Career School, providing teacher support groups and art therapy groups for the children.

Knoetze notes that without the security, hope and guidance the children need, they can become “extremely traumatised and depressed and hopeless. They might, like any other human being under siege, react with aggression and acting-out behaviour”. Matiwane says that most of the boys at the shelter who come from the streets tend to be disobedient to instructions.

Twelve-year-old Alutha Bennie is one of those children who constantly returns to the streets to beg for money. Bennie lives with his grandmother and younger sister in Encakeni. Bennie spends his evenings on the streets until he has enough money for bread to take home. He frequently gets beaten up by the older boys and they take his money, but he refuses to leave the streets.

Stefan Swart, a 49-year-old beggar from the Grahamstown – Port Elizabeth – East London area confirmed Bennie’s assertion. He says that the older boys coerce the younger ones into stealing and threaten them. He also notes that no one should walk alone at night.

The Grahamstown Feeding Scheme, essentially a volunteer programme funded on the charity of Grahamstown residents, feeds about 230 unemployed people from three different soup kitchens every weekday. The feeding scheme is also responsible for handing out food parcels to people whose home circumstances make them deserving of such, according to Brian Gaybba, the chairperson of the scheme. Gaybba says that any children who come to any of the soup kitchens would have to be accompanied by an adult.

Rhodes Drama department, as well as the charitable societies and the Centre for Social Development (CSD) at Rhodes contribute to the care of the children. Residences donate clothes and students in volunteer programmes take the children swimming; Matiwane says that this goes a long way to help and that the shelter appreciates what Rhodes is doing. During the winter months however, more blankets and warm clothes are always needed.

Although there is help out there for the children, there is still a lot more that can be done. Volunteer programmes like those offered by the CSD are extremely helpful to programmes like Eluxolweni shelter and Amasango Career School. Donations of food and clothes, as well as time and caring are always needed. Speak to your Community Engagement Representative in residence, or the CSD if you would like to help.

 

Grahamstown’s streets seem to be home to dozens of children, a situation that is inescapable from the notice of students and residents who walk about in town. With their dirty clothes and pleading faces, they ask passers-by for money, for bread – for anything. Students and residents alike tend to walk on by without so much as a sideways glance in their direction. But are they properly cared for? Who looks after these children, and how do they cope in such a devastatingly dangerous and unregulated environment?Grahamstown’s streets seem to be home to dozens of children, a situation that is inescapable from the notice of students and residents who walk about in town. With their dirty clothes and pleading faces, they ask passers-by for money, for bread – for anything. Students and residents alike tend to walk on by without so much as a sideways glance in their direction. But are they properly cared for? Who looks after these children, and how do they cope in such a devastatingly dangerous and unregulated environment?

 

 

Grahamstown’s streets seem to be home to dozens of children, a situation that is inescapable from the notice of students and residents who walk about in town. With their dirty clothes and pleading faces, they ask passers-by for money, for bread – for anything. Students and residents alike tend to walk on by without so much as a sideways glance in their direction. But are they properly cared for? Who looks after these children, and how do they cope in such a devastatingly dangerous and unregulated environment?

Jan Knoetze, the director of the Rhodes University Psychology Clinic refers to children who live on the street as marginalised, or at risk. The children that can be seen on the streets every day may be in danger not only from cars and hunger, but from other children and sometimes even their own parents.

There is great concern for the well-being of these children, and some caring Grahamstown residents have taken the first steps to securing their well-being. Jabu van Niekerk from the Raphael Centre, Grahamstown’s Aids orphanage, says that all of the children that the centre takes in come from underprivileged backgrounds. “Those who live in poverty are more vulnerable to HIV/Aids.”

Eluxolweni Boys’ Shelter, which was established in the early 1990s, takes in up to 35 boys at a time, but Senior Child Care-giver Luyanda Matiwane says that there is always a problem with space. The shelter provides for the children’s basic needs as well as providing rehabilitation programmes and access to church activities. The shelter is alerted to the plight of children by the police or concerned citizens. They also have children coming to the shelter on their own accord.

Eluxolweni currently cares for boys from eight to 18 years old. At 18 the children are either reunited with their parents or are offered temporary shelter at Halfway House Orphanage.

Trotter street shelter takes in girls who are 11 years old and above. The girls are referred by teachers or social workers and have mostly also come from a background of abuse and mistreatment from their parents, says Yoliswa Dube who is involved with the care of the girls.

Girls from Trotter street shelter and boys from the Eluxolweni shelter attend the Amasango Career School. Amasango provides the children with basic literacy and numeracy skills up until the age of seven, after which the children will attend township schools. The school also facilitates the movement of the older pupils into the working world by giving them a skills-based education. Beryl Shumane, an Amasango Career School educator, says that the pupils arrive at the school with low self-esteem problems and the overcrowded classes are a problem because this makes the children very violent; the concern of this situation is that the children will go back onto the street.

The children at Eluxolweni are also provided with psychological counselling from the Rhodes Psychology Clinic and Fort England. Knoetze says that the main goal of the clinic’s contact with the children is to provide them with hope. “They are people. Like all other children they need security and hope and guidance and love,” he says. The Psychology Clinic also works with the Amasango Career School, providing teacher support groups and art therapy groups for the children.

Knoetze notes that without the security, hope and guidance the children need, they can become “extremely traumatised and depressed and hopeless. They might, like any other human being under siege, react with aggression and acting-out behaviour”. Matiwane says that most of the boys at the shelter who come from the streets tend to be disobedient to instructions.

Twelve-year-old Alutha Bennie is one of those children who constantly returns to the streets to beg for money. Bennie lives with his grandmother and younger sister in Encakeni. Bennie spends his evenings on the streets until he has enough money for bread to take home. He frequently gets beaten up by the older boys and they take his money, but he refuses to leave the streets.

Stefan Swart, a 49-year-old beggar from the Grahamstown – Port Elizabeth – East London area confirmed Bennie’s assertion. He says that the older boys coerce the younger ones into stealing and threaten them. He also notes that no one should walk alone at night.

The Grahamstown Feeding Scheme, essentially a volunteer programme funded on the charity of Grahamstown residents, feeds about 230 unemployed people from three different soup kitchens every weekday. The feeding scheme is also responsible for handing out food parcels to people whose home circumstances make them deserving of such, according to Brian Gaybba, the chairperson of the scheme. Gaybba says that any children who come to any of the soup kitchens would have to be accompanied by an adult.

Rhodes Drama department, as well as the charitable societies and the Centre for Social Development (CSD) at Rhodes contribute to the care of the children. Residences donate clothes and students in volunteer programmes take the children swimming; Matiwane says that this goes a long way to help and that the shelter appreciates what Rhodes is doing. During the winter months however, more blankets and warm clothes are always needed.

Although there is help out there for the children, there is still a lot more that can be done. Volunteer programmes like those offered by the CSD are extremely helpful to programmes like Eluxolweni shelter and Amasango Career School. Donations of food and clothes, as well as time and caring are always needed. Speak to your Community Engagement Representative in residence, or the CSD if you would like to help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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