During September 1993 an investigation was launched on the lifestyle, activities, experiences, and background of street children in Pretoria, South Africa. Qualitative rather than quantitative interviews were conducted to gather as much information as possible on the total life situation and subjective experiences of these children. This article focuses specifically on their background. The responses to each interview are discussed and compared with research done in the past on South African street children.
The average age of the respondents was between 13 and 14 years as shown in Figure 1.(Figure 1 omitted) Figures in Cape Town differ only slightly...in that the mean age of runaways ...view middle of the document...
Street children are simply described as the victims of the former policy of apartheid. Ross illustrates her statement as follows: "The vast majority of an estimated 9,000 street children in South Africa are black. There are virtually no white street children in South Africa, but there are 10,000 white children in 160 state-registered and subsidized children's homes. In contrast, there are no state- administered children's homes for African children in the urban areas. The 12 existing private homes accommodate just under 1,000 African children. Although the existing 11 places of safety for African children can accommodate 1,400 children, only 700 children were harbored there during 1991."
The present ratio of Africans to whites in South Africa is approximately 5:1. If the white community produces 10,000 children in need of care, the statistical projection is that there are at least 50,000 black youths in need of care. If one considers the present high levels of violence and poverty in the black townships of South Africa, this projection of needy black children seems to be unrealistically low (Le Roux, 1993).
Ross (1991) reached the following conclusions: "If it is self-evident why there are no white street children, it is also obvious why there are so many black street children. White children in need of social care in South Africa have been adequately provided for by the community and by the state. Black children in need of social care have been sorely neglected.... South Africa's street children are an uncomfortable reminder of this country's racial legacy: they are yet more of apartheid's victims" (p. 70).
According to Hickson and Gaydon (1989), "What is unique about South African street children is the role that apartheid ideology has played in their lives.... For this reason Johannesburg's (black)'twilight children' must be located within a political context" (p. 85).
Swart (1988) noted: "Street children in Johannesburg are almost exclusively black children; a few are colored.' This is partly because, despite the fad that black people outnumber whites by 5:1 in South Africa, racially segregated institutional care facilities for children are disproportionately provided at a ratio of 9:200" (p. 34).
Although the above remarks reflect the problematic situation of the contemporary black South African child, drastic reforms have taken place since the former State President F.W. de Klerk's opening address in Parliament on February 2, 1990. These reforms will eventually also improve the black child's situation. The economic, political, and social reform process is under way and is making a positive contribution to the emergence of a nonracial, democratic society, committed to uplifting the broad underprivileged and deprived masses in South Africa. On April 27, 1994 the first nonracial democratic election took place in South Africa to bring a free democratic dispensation to all people in South Africa. Proof of these changes was the...