Society's forgotten: East London's street children


While South Africa celebrates Child Protection Week 2016 after the International World Children’s Day was observed on Wednesday under the theme “Let Us All Protect Children to Move South Africa Forward”, a growing number of children, some as young as 10 years old, are sleeping on the streets of the East London CBD.

“I do not want to live at a welfare or orphanage because it is not good there. I’m fine here on the streets my people take care of me here  very well, the welfare they  hit us,” said one 10 year-old boy, who this correspondent found sniffing glue.

Abuse of drugs and substances is common among street children, and with the quality and constitution of the substances unknown, they are often very dangerous.

However, his feelings about orphanages and welfare homes seemed to attract the same reaction from every other street child that this reporter encountered.

Why would these children prefer a life of begging people for change or left overs? Life on the streets is also not easy with dangers that include sexual assault and bullying lurking at every corner for the vulnerable.

“These children have been so used to those living circumstances, social workers from East London have been to these hotspots where they sleep and some of them have been allocated to places of safety but they will return back to streets again,” explained, Andisiwe Msindwana, a Social Worker Manager for the Children’s Program at the Department of Social Development Amathole District.

Her office is tasked with dealing with all child-related issues within the Amathole District.Msidwana.

She further states that there are places of safety in East London to accommodate children living in the streets although they are facing a problem of limited resources.

We then spent time in the CBD asking ordinary citizens if whether they would adopt a street kid if they had the financial means to do so. The responses were mixed.

“I would adopt a child if I had the means to do so but like any the child, children are problematic in a sense their own way,” said local resident, Mark Fredericks.

While we retuned to the comfort of our homes, it was hard to imagine how these kids would continue with their lives on the streets especially after climatologists suggested that this will be one of the coldest winters in recent times.

Image: Abongile Jantjies.

Abongile Jantjies is a journalism student at the Walter Sisulu University.