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.