Pretoria: Street children in South Africa will now be provided shelter by the government and helped in leading a better life free from exploitation.
Police and the Health and Social Services in Pretoria have started an initiative where they are seeking out children begging at road intersections and offering them instead a place of safety, BuaNews, the national news agency, reported.
Government officials from various departments and volunteers from a non-governmental organisation - Bikers Against Child Abuse - patrolled the streets of Pretoria, stopping at road intersections to speak to the children begging there.
Social workers approached mothers, children and teenagers and tried to convince them to leave the streets and instead be taken to shelters.
A man from Mozambique, who had a toddler daughter on his lap as he repaired shoes on the side of the road, also caught the attention of officials. He said his wife was in hospital and there was no one else to care for his daughter.
Social workers reassured him that the child would be cared for and once his wife was well enough he could come and collect his daughter.
Two Zimbabwean women, with four children between them, were also ushered off the streets, while a 13-year-old boy who had been living on the streets since his mother died last year was also taken to a shelter.
Police also approached two 17-year-old boys begging at an intersection. One of them said his mother died four years ago and he has not been to school since. His friend had a similar story. He had to leave school because he did not have money for food.
The programme launched by the government targeted children in particular because they would be the ones to take the country forward, said Col Anneline Steyn, station commander of Garsfontein police station.
"We don`t want to see kids standing on street corners. They are our future. We need to take care of them and ensure that they are safe," she said.
The aim was "not to cause trouble but to execute a duty neglected for a long time".
A spokesman for the department of health and social development told BuaNews: "We should protect children from exploitation and from adults using children for financial gain by begging at street corners. We want to ensure that the children get to a place of safety where they can go to school and get properly fed".