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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Jo'burg streets: Sibongiseni's story
As G8 leaders meet to discuss poverty in Africa, BBC News Website looks at the plight of the continent's homeless youth.

Sibongiseni
Sibongiseni, 17, lives in a shelter for girls in Berea, an inner-city Johannesburg neighbourhood.

She attends the New Nation school, which provides classes especially for homeless children. After school she regularly visits the Thembalethu care centre, which found her a place at school and supports her education.

I was living with my family in Thembisa, with my mother and my stepfather. They were physically abusing me, always insulting me.

I wasn't coping in school. I ran away to Jo'burg this year.

I lived for a while with a friend, who then took me to a shelter in Berea called The House.

It's not easy to stay there.

It hurts me to stay there with children who were raped. I coped with them because I taught myself that to kill myself would be no good.

The first time it was not easy but now we treat each other like sisters.

We have discussions at night about why we came to the shelter. Sometimes you realise that someone needs help.

We appreciate and guide each other - treat each other like sisters.

When I was living at home they would never give me time to study
Sibongiseni

The people I live with - the caregivers - they understand what I like, and I take them like my parents. They appreciate us in a good way.

When I was still at home I was thin, now I'm fat. I'm no longer crying - no one is beating or insulting me. If I do wrong, we sit down and discuss it and I apologise.

I'm at the New Nation school. It's good. I'm not stressed, and I'm always happy with friends there.

When I was living at home they would never give me time to study. I had to look after my younger brother and sister and clean twice a day - and even when I did this my mother was never satisfied.

Since I left I have phoned my mother once just to say I'm around - they don't know where I am. I am thinking of going to visit them, but it will be hard for them to understand.

Here at Thembalethu I get to meet girls who live in different shelters, and we eat different food. We get education about how to take care of ourselves and behave.

I'd like to study chemical engineering. I can also write poems and I'd like to ask for the help of someone like (the South African poet) Mzwakhe Mbuli.





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