Street kids want to zula

A study on Windhoek street children shows that most of them have homes to return to but they enjoy living without adult supervision and earning money by illicit means.

11 December 2018 | Social Issues

A Unam study has found that street children return to the streets where they engage in prostitution, mainly because they get used to being their own bosses and making their own money.

The study found that the majority of Windhoek street children were born in Windhoek, with a few who hail from Zimbabwe and South Africa, while those from outside Windhoek are predominantly from Rehoboth and Keetmanshoop. There are a handful from Gobabis and Oshikango as well as Lüderitz and Swakopmund.

The Demographic Profile of Street Children: A study of Windhoek, 2015, was commissioned by the gender equality and child welfare ministry to determine the socio-demographic characteristics of street children in Windhoek, as the population remains unknown.

The study compiled by Unam social work students found that the majority of the street children are boys between the ages 11 and 18 who are able to return to a family home, and that the majority of them are Damara-speaking with the smallest number speaking Shona as home language.

The study also found that the majority of these street children have only attended school to grade 8.

The study also made two important distinctions, namely 'children on the streets', which refers to children who have homes to return to but are on the street to earn money, and 'children of the streets', which refers to homeless children who have no families. The former group is the majority.

The study also showed that most of these children grew up with single mothers and grandparents.





Those who grew up with other relatives or a stepparent are at risk of living on and off the streets.

The study also indicated that the overwhelming majority of street children are boys (84%), and girls or young women at 16%.

“The lesser reasons why the children are pushed onto the streets are hostile home environments such as alcohol abuse and divorce, as well as their own defiant behaviour such as the use of illicit drugs and non-adherence to a structured environment. Primarily, poverty drives these children to the streets,” the report states.

It adds that a sense of belonging has considerable influence over street children's decision to stay on or off the streets.



Means of income

According to the study, street children's primary source income is begging and stealing (58%), followed by prostitution and selling illicit drugs.

The majority of street children were born in the capital while some hail from southern Namibia and surrounding towns.

The border and coastal towns of Namibia are prone to the presence of street children as the highest percentage outside Windhoek first lived on the streets in these towns, the study found.

Street children also confirmed that they had been approached by drug dealers who wanted them to sell illicit drugs.



The majority of the children are often rounded up by the police, their own parents or caregivers, ministry officials and staff from the government after-school centre.

The study also found that while most of the street children indicated money in their pockets will keep them off the street, about half of them have no parents to return to who can support them financially.



Recommendations

The study recommended the development of targeted risk programmes for boys.

It also recommended a strengthened monitoring and reporting system of foster placements beyond the superficial provision of basic needs by the social welfare sector to identify children at risk of maltreatment, defiant behaviour and assessing if caregivers still wish to foster or care for a child.

The study also suggested that there is a need to strengthen the legal framework to identify child prostitution and to address the reasons why minors are taken and held at police stations.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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