Raising resilience by tackling texts

27 Sep 2012

Globally, children living on the street is a tragic reality of city life in developing countries. Due to the death of primary caregivers in the wake of the AIDS pandemic and escalating poverty in South Africa, even more children may be forced onto the streets, resulting in an inexorable increase in social problems such as crime, violence, drug abuse, prostitution, teenage pregnancy, STDs and child exploitation. Many children, however, manage to escape, against all odds, the dire consequences of social upheaval or a dysfunctional home. Many South African youth novels attempt to give a realistic portrayal of these children’s problems and the resilience that the protagonists need to acquire and exercise in order to survive, let alone prosper. In this article, the youth novel A red kite in a pale sky, by a South African author Dianne Hofmeyr, serves as a matrix for the application of a theory of resilience. The question is asked to what extent resilience steers the actions taken by the protagonist when faced with other characters’ failure and total collapse. While depicting coping mechanisms is hardly the purpose of a literary work, the use of narrative texts to address troubling issues is considered a channel of communication and support for learners, and a vehicle to gain some understanding of complex psychosocial issues. Most street children attend school, if only for a short time, and can be guided by teachers who recognise that the health of a society is refl ected in the care of its young.