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The worldwide phenomenon of street children: Conceptual analysis
le Roux, Johann. Adolescence 31. 124 (Winter 1996): 965-71.
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Today, both developed and developing countries are facing the problem posed by street children. The world often tries to forget or ignore them, and sometimes even denies they exist. As the big cities grow, so will the number of street children; so deprivation which begets frustration which begets violence will also grow; and so a worldwide socioeducational problem emerges. No country and virtually no city anywhere in the world can escape the presence of these so-called street children. In this article the phenomenon of street children as a rapidly growing socioeducational challenge is analysed.
Today, both developed and developing countries are facing the problem posed by street children. The world often tries to forget or ignore them, and sometimes even denies they exist. As the big cities grow, so will the number of street children; so deprivation which begets frustration which begets violence will also grow; and so a worldwide socioeducational problem emerges. No country and virtually no city anywhere in the world can escape the presence of these so-called street children. In this article the phenomenon of street childrenas a rapidly growing socioeducational challenge is analysed. INTRODUCTION The scene is common and painfully familiar; a busy streetlined with shops displaying the latest in fashion and electronic equipment, welldressed people going in and out, the sound of vehicles whizzing by, expensive cars, the flash of neon lights. At night big cities come alive and urban life reaches its peak. But, in the background, childrenhuddle in corners, or walk about aimlessly, dirty, dishevelled-a pitiful sight. Some are selling cigarettes, peddling lottery tickets or flowers; some are just loitering and others are asleep in city arcades. As night progresses, these childrenare seen gambling, smoking, sniffing solvents, taking up with locals or tourists for a night of "big money," taking on odd jobs to get some money to ease their grumbling stomachs or to take home to starving family members (Childhope, 1993). Street children, the offspring of today's complex urban realities worldwide, represent one of our global family's most serious, urgent and rapidly growing socioeducational challenges. No country and virtually no city can escape the presence of these so-called street children. In some parts of the world, they have been a familiar phenomenon for many years. In the last decade this phenomenon has grown at an alarming rate throughout Asia and Africa. Contrary to popular belief, street childrendo have a function in society (Baizerman, 1990): Their ongoing presence functions to reaffirm each person's pre-existing prejudices about families, substance abuse, streetcrime, and birth control. They reaffirm usually unstated notions about the incorrigibility of childrenor their inherent resilience. They contribute to the affirmation of theological notions of sin, corruption, and other evils. They define moral boundaries and in part, the unsympathetic nature of contemporary society. They are part of modern life as it is organized today: a streetculture of petty crime, drug selling and prostitution. They are part of the job market as unskilled, energetic, available, low-cost and short-term employees. They are used as runners or "gofers" to deliver packages as well as perform other services. The street childphenomenon is therefore sustained by the functioning of
modern society. THE STREET CHILDPHENOMENON The term street childrenwas aptly coined sometime in the eighties to identify childrenwho have chosen to spend most of their time on the streetsin various "occupations." Ranging in age from 5 to 18 years, they ply the sidewalks in a desperate attempt to eke out whatever they can to bring home to their families for food, medicine, or whatever is needed. Most of them are the childrenof poor parents who migrated from the rural areas in hope of making a life in the city, but whose lack of education rendered them ill-equipped for survival in the urban jungle. Different countries describe street childrenin different ways. However, three categories have been identified in the Philippines (Childhope, 1993): Childrenworking on the street, with regular family contact. Comprising about 70% of street childrenin some countries, these childrenhave family connections of a regular nature. Most of this group still attend school and return home at the end of each working day. They are referred to as childrenon the street. Childrenliving and working on the street. These childrensee the streetas their home and from it they seek income, food, shelter, and a sense of family among companions. Family ties may exist but are viewed negatively, and their former home is infrequently visited. In some countries, about 20% of street children, and in others like Thailand, the majority are in this category; they are referred to as childrenof the street. Completely abandoned and neglected children. Having severed all ties with a biological family, these childrenare entirely on their own, for material and psychological survival. Several countries in the Asian region recognize the three categories, agreeing on a common denominator: the children, with or without family, are at high risk. Some countries' definition of street childrenreflects the priority they are willing or able to give to this group. According to Santaputrat, Wathanavongs, and Thaiarry (1990), street childrenin Thailand are those who have been abandoned and work and live on the streets: "have no permanent home, stray in public places, earn a living on the street, and tend to be victimized by criminals to commit crimes. These childrendo not include those who migrate with their family to work places." In Myammar (the new name for Burma), street childreninclude "those who are without family, or whose family ties are so weak that they are only infrequently to be found at home" (Yangon UNICEF, 1992). In Malaysia, childrenfound on the streetare subsumed under the broad category of childrenwho are "in need of care and protection" or simply "at risk" (Keen, 1992). In Cambodia, childrenwithout family support and who frequent the streetseither to beg or to earn a living or who belong to households headed by women and lack attention and care, would be classified as street children(Cruz, 1992). In China, street childrenare mostly truants and stow-away childrenwho leave school before completing nine years of compulsory education (Xiang, 1990). In Vietnam, the thousands of adolescents who live on the streetsare called "childrenof the dust"-bui doi. Three categories have been defined: abandoned and homeless children; childrenwho go home to their families; and childrenof streetfamilies (Childhope Asia, 1992). Jakarta's street children, A nak Jalanan, are of two categories: childrenworking on the streetand childrenliving on the street. In the Senen area of Central Jakarta, the majority dwell in the squatter areas of Bungur and Gaplok, staying with their families or renting their own dwelling units; they are categorized as childrenworking on the street. Spending most of their time on the streetin order to earn a living, they use their income to support their families. This group is only slightly involved with crime and drug abuse. Childrenliving on the street, the second category of street childrenin Jakarta, spend most of their time on the streetor in public places but not in a productive way. Some are homeless and have minimal contact with their families. Gembel (shabby/wild/brutal) childrenare influenced by adults or older street childrento commit crimes and engage in substance abuse (CCIPS/ICWF-Childhope, 1992). In South Asia, an unpublished UNICEF paper: "Exploitation of Working and Street Children" (1986) bases the identification of street childrenon the availability of shelter for them and their level of contact with their families. The three categories are: Childrenwho have continuous family contact but
who stay with their parents on the public pavements in urban areas; working childrenwho spend all their days and some of their nights on the streetsand in public places, but who have occasional family contact; childrenon the street; childrensuch as orphans, runaways, refugees, and displaced persons who do not have any contact with their families; childrenof the street, they are the most crucial group as they do not have any protection from the vagaries of nature and society. Thus, in order to present a meaningful definition of the concept "street children," one must, clearly distinguish between various categories. Complementing the above categorizations, Adams, Gullotta, and Clancy (1985) have distinguished three groups: childrenwho flee the home because of family conflict, bad social relationships, and alienation; childrenwho are rejected by their parents, or forced to leave home; and childrenwho are the products of rejection by society. One can also add the South African politically grounded and politically motivated category. The Group Areas Act, in which a black childwas not allowed to live with his parents who were employed and resided in white areas, was in place until 1990. The outcome was that the childwas placed in the care of someone else (either family or friends) in the so-called black township. Loss of parental control often predisposed the childto a streetlifestyle (Peacock, 1989). The following are definitions or descriptions of street children, predominantly from South African investigators: Street children; homeless youngsters who roam the streetsby day and sleep in culverts, empty buildings and vacant lots at night (Drake, 1989). Street childrencomprise a group of poorly socialized children, failing to develop commitments and attachments within society (Cemane, 1990). In the widest sense a street childis one who has made the streethis real home . . . those who have abandoned (or have been abandoned by) their families, schools and immediate communities before they are sixteen years of age and have drifted into a nomadic streetlife (Gebers, 1990). A street child. . . is any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood for whom the street(in the widest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become her or his habitual abode and or source of livelihood and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults (Swart, 1988). The term "street child" refers more specifically to childrenof the streets. These childrencome from homes where there is violence, overcrowding, drug and alcohol abuse or from communities divided by political forces into war zones. Many have been abused and hope to find a better life in the city (Bernstein &Gray, 1991). . . . throwaways and runaways, childrenwhom families and communities have failed (Richter, 1988). . . . a byproduct of a community that has been exposed to industrialization and urbanization without the support of a firm social service infra-structure (Loening, 1988 in Bernstein &Gray, 1991). "Strollers" is the name used by street childrento describe themselves in Cape Town (South Africa). They are mainly "colored" or of mixed racial descent. "Malundi" and "omalalapayipi" are Zulu words meaning "those of the street" or "those who sleep in the (stormwater) pipes." These terms are used by Johannesburg (South Africa) street children(mainly of African racial descent) to describe themselves (Richter, 1989). We say we are the Malundi, the ones that sleep by the street. But it's better not to sleep by the streets, because when it's cold the people throw cold water on you and you don't have other clothes to put on. Sometimes we say we are the malapipe, because we sleep in the big pipes where they make the buildings. Pines' (1986) definition refers to the self-description of a childin South Africa. "A stroller is someone who don't sleep by his house-he sleeps in the street. He don't eat by his househe eats by the bins. A stroller is someone who thinks he is free, to do what his mind says. It's a nice name for us," according to a street childin Cape Town, South Africa (Swart, 1988). Although there are a variety of definitions or descriptions of the street childphenomenon, they have the following in common: These childrenare trying to escape an anti-childculture or have fled unbearable circumstances at home or in their immediate environment. They feel they can no longer trust themselves to be in the hands of society. For this reason, they have undertaken to manage their lives and futures on their own and retain total control of their lives. They are vulnerable to exploitation. Most of them have left chaotic family environments that involved violence, abuse, alcoholism, and
alienation. A description of street childrenwould not be complete without distinguishing between "runaways" and "throwaways." Runaways are described as childrenwho voluntarily leave home without parental permission. Throwaways are those who leave home because their parents have actually encouraged them to leave, have abandoned them, or have subjected them to intolerable levels of abuse and neglect (Nye &Edelbrock, 1980; Richter, 1989). Finally, in defining the phenomenon, it must be emphasized that there are differences between street childrenin developed and those in developing countries (Forrest, Tyler, Tyler, &Echeverry, 1986): In contrast to developed countries, there is no counterculture attraction to the streetsin the Third World. Childrenthere know that life on the streetsis neither romantic, nor a vehicle of social protest. The majority of street childrenin developing or Third World countries are boys who have fled their homes permanently. In developed countries, the typical street childis a white female, or youths from middle or higher income homes who have left home temporarily. These childrenhave not broken any laws, but are unable to cope with interpersonal or other family problems. CONCLUSION Today, both developed and developing countries are facing the broad spectrum of problems posed by street children. There appears to be little acknowledgment or grasp of the problem, let alone steps taken to address or prevent it effectively. The streethas become the common heritage of millions of children, even before they are tainted by drugs, prostitution, abuse, crime, and many other socioeducational problems. Much can and has to be done to protect the child's right to a dignified life. References REFERENCES References Adams, G. R., Gullotta, T., &Clancy, M. A. (1985). Homeless adolescents: A descriptive study of similarities and differences between runaways and throwaways. Adolescence, 20(79), 715-723. Baizerman, M. (1990). If "out of sight, out of mind," then "in sight and in mind?" The ChildCare Worker, 8, 4-5. Bernstein, A., &Gray, M. (1991). Khaya lethu: An arbortive attempt at dealing with street children. Social Work, 27(1), 5058. CCIPS/ICWF-Childhope. (1992). Childrenon Jakarta's streets. Study report on street childrenin Senen Area, Central Jakarta. Cemane, K B. (1990). The street childphenomenon. Social Work Practice, 90(1), 2-5. Childhope. (1993). The street childrenof Asia. A publication made possible by a grant of UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office. Childhope, ASIA. (1992). Street children. Childhope Asia, May-June 1992. Cruz, V. P. (1992). Field visit to Cambodia June 7-13, 1992. Unpublished report. Drake, E. (1989). Street childrenin other countries. The ChildCare Worker, 7(7), 14-15 References Forrest, B., Tyler, S. L., Tyler, J. J., &Echeverry, M. C. Z. (1986). A preventative psychosocial approach for working with street children. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, August 22-26,1986. Washington, DC. Gebers, P. E. (1990). Health of street childrenin Cape Town. The ChildCare Worker, 8(9), 11-14. Keen, C. P. (1992). Streetgirls-A Malaysian perspective. Proceedings of Regional Workshop on Intervention Programs for StreetGirls, including characteristics of Sexual Exploitation. Manila: Childhope. Nye, I., &Edelbrock, C. (1980). Introduction: Some social characteristics of runaways. Journal of Family Introduction: 1, 147-150 Peacock, R. (1989). Die manlike swart straatkind:Nverkennende psigokriminol*uerke ondersoek. Ongepubliseerde M. A.-verhandeling. Pretoria: Universiteit van Pretoria. Pines, N. J. (1986). Street children-Four perspectives. Institute for the Study of Man in Africa, 40, 1. References Richter, L. M. (1988). Street children: The nature and scope of the problem in Southern Africa. The ChildCare Worker, 6(7), 11-14. Richter, L. M. (1989). Descriptions of self, family and society given
by street childrenin Johannesburg. Paper presented at the 7th National Congress of the South African Association for Childand Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines March 29-31, 1989. Cape Town. Santaputra, S., Wathanavongs, A., &Thaiarry, S. (1990). Street childrenin Thailand. Unpublished research report. Thailand: Bangkok. Swart, J. M. (1988). An anthropological study of street childrenin Hillbrow, Johannesburg, with special reference to their moral values. Unpublished M. A. dissertation. Pretoria: University of South Africa. UNICEF. (1986). Exploitation of working and street children. Unpublished paper (E/ICEF/1986). Xiang, G. (1990). Strategies for helping Chinese truant children. Proceedings of Regional Workshop. Manila: Childhope. YANGON UNICEF. (1992). Myanmar childrenin exceptionally difficult circumstances. Unpublished manuscript. AuthorAffiliation Reprint requests to Professor Johann le Roux, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0001, Republic of South Africa.
Subject Homeless people; Industrialized nations; LDCs; Developing countries; Social conditions&trends; Children&youth Adolescent, Child, Child, Abandoned, Female, Humans, Male, Social Conditions, Socioeconomic Factors, Urban Health, Homeless Persons (major) The worldwide phenomenon of street children: Conceptual analysis le Roux, Johann Adolescence 31 124 965-71 7 1996 Winter 1996 1996 Roslyn Heights Libra Publishers Incorporated Roslyn Heights United States Children And Youth - About, Psychology, Education, Medical Sciences--Psychiatry And Neurology 00018449 ADOLAO Scholarly Journals
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English PERIODICAL Children&youth, Homeless people, Social conditions&trends, Developing countries, LDCs, Industrialized nations 8970667, 03090273 195937050 http://search.proquest.com/docview/195937050?accountid=17242 Copyright Libra Publishers Incorporated Winter 1996 2011-04-28 4 databases -ProQuest Health&Medical Complete -ProQuest Nursing&Allied Health Source -ProQuest Psychology Journals -ProQuest Research Library
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