n Educare - A historical-educational perspective of urbanisation and its contribution to the street child phenomenon in South Africa

Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-8829



The street child phenomenon as a social-educational problem is experienced both locally and internationally. Presently in South Africa, there are an estimated 12 000 street or vagrant children who are predominantly black and male. The question that arises is why is this the case? What is the etiology of the problem and why is it predominantly limited to one specific population group and gender? Furthermore, one cannot but wonder what the educational implications for these underage children are. The origin of this predicament is possibly to be found in the history of urbanisation in this country. Urbanisation as a boon to some, has been the downfall of others and the intention of this article is to provide a South African perspective on the course and impact of urbanisation on children and their education: the focus however, on the plight of the street child. The effect of the legislation which has guided and controlled urbanisation and has resulted in generations of street children among the black population group is briefly reviewed. In addition, the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is currently devastating the country, is contributing towards the escalation of the number of street children as these children, orphaned and destitute, turn to the streets for their livelihood - which most frequently includes prostitution which exposes them to the risk of HIV infection. The article goes on to investigate the educational situation of these children who are the product of urbanisation, to highlight the dilemmas faced on a daily basis and to sketch the educational and career prospects which they have. The research in preparation for this article relies not only on a review of literature on the issue, but also draws on the results of interviews conducted with street children to determine their opinions on those matters which are of concern to their welfare. From an analysis of the interviews it is possible to sketch profiles of street children's backgrounds, lifestyles, experiences, and also their future prospects. One could ask whether to these children, cities as products of urbanisation, are a light and beacon or merely a lure promising survival?

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