A former gang member from Bophelong indicated: “Our homes are too small, they are suffocating us. There are no facilities for young people in this area, young people have nothing to do ... We need facilities or else we join gangs and do drugs just to forget about our circumstances.”
Both practitioners and young people in our study pointed out that some of the few facilities that were available were either abandoned or unsupervised. As a result, some of them had been used as a space for antisocial behaviour by gangs and drug lords.
Instead of serving as areas of recreation to keep young people safe, these spaces were now traps for the vulnerable.
As one practitioner put it: “Then there was a park and then this park was captured by gangs simply because there was nobody who was owning the space, so they decided that the space is theirs.”
Meeting real needs
Recreational facilities should meet the real needs of marginalised young people. But our findings highlighted that they didn’t. This defeated the whole purpose because the facilities failed to attract the very people they were meant to serve.
An unemployed youth from Nyanga said: “Sisteri, ekasi (Sister, the African township) is full of useful people doing useless things. A lot of talents and gifts are wasted ekasi because of limited resources, that’s why people end up using their gifts for wrong things like crime ... There is a lot of frustration ... for example go around Nyanga and look around, the facilities are not attractive.”
These findings indicate the importance of understanding specific youth needs and contexts to bring about targeted programmes that prevent and redress antisocial behaviour.
Well-organised and well-managed recreational facilities play an important role in removing youths from the streets of marginalised, crime-ridden communities and keeping them occupied with constructive activities.
• G. Nokukhanya Ndhlovu: Post-doctoral fellow, University of Fort Hare
This article was first published by The Conversation.