You probably agree that street children – often typecast deviants, nuisances and criminals – are an undeniable part of our urban landscape. But if you’ve resolved that abuse, drugs, the sex trade, arrest and detention are their lot, then you’ll be interested in what lies behind the fenced-in walls of the Salesian Institute on Somerset Road.
The Salesian Institute is a registered independent school that acknowledges the special needs of street children. The school has successfully hosted alternative educational programmes for underprivileged youth since the late 1980s, including the 16+ Outreach programme and Learn-to-Live, which has become the educational facility for practically all the residential programmes for street children in and around Cape Town.
Street children are typically driven to the streets by neglect, abuse or fear, says Daniel Brown, a project co-ordinator. “Adults are not really their favourite people. They will, however, beg from them, con them and strum on their heartstrings. A child with these habits is not really equipped to cope in mainstream in the public schooling system in our country.”
“More than 50 percent of the children who have attended the programme over the past 13 years, have been four or more years older than they ideally should be for the last grade they completed,” he says. “And more than 20 percent of them have learning problems of varying intensities.”
Youth who enter the Institution through the 16+ Outreach programme are assessed and undergo an induction phase to help them adjust to the realities of structured learning environments. Older learners, who are least likely to rejoin mainstream schooling, are offered an opportunity to acquire a technical skill in a trade, such as leather goods making, woodcraft, welding, or panel beating – the institute’s latest growth initiative.
Attempts to register the Institute as a public school have consistently failed, says Brown, partially because the school does “not fit any of the categories found in the Schools or the Adult Basic Education and Training Act.” For this reason, fundraising ventures and public donations are an integral part of the Institute’s survival strategy of maintaining and growing the organisation according to the needs of the youth. The institute’s panel beating workshop is one such initiative where funding is desperately sought for outfitting, operating and sustaining the project in the long-term.
“That’s where the Green Point community and the CID comes into play,” says Marc Truss, director for Green Point CID. “We fully support the school’s initiatives. I would encourage people to visit the institute and see firsthand the talent, the skill and the courage that these marginalized youth display.”
Goods manufactured at the Salesian Institute are for sale and the public is invited to buy the goods and make donations to ensure the ongoing success of the programme. Partnerships are also being sought with businesses and community groups who can offer mentorship, internships and materials or equipment.
For more information on the Salesian Institute’s programmes and offerings, or the learn more about the CID’s involvement, contact Dan Brown on 021 425 1424.