With an unemployment rate around 25% in South Africa, panhandlers are ubiquitous. Used to be you’d stop at any intersection and someone would offer to clean your windscreen for change. If you had an even halfway decent car, you’d pay them not to clean it. But there seems to be a new way to beg – proof that we live in a knowledge economy!


Philani, the Pavement Bookworm: provides reviews of books he has read and, if you like what you hear, will sell you the book too.

Homeless-Bookworm

“Some of those who drive past look down on me, like I do not exist, but others see me for what I am – a dispenser of knowledge and happiness.” – Philani Dladla

philani-dladla-reads

Philani is now spearheading a literacy project and Book Readers’ Club for underprivileged children and at-risk youths. You can help by making a donation here.


Moses, the Traffic Light Teacher: for the equivalent of a dime will teach you a Zulu word, complete with pronunciation.

Traffic-Light-Teacher

“I used to sell jokes, but people did not find them funny. I had to find something else and all I know is isiZulu.” – Moses Mackenzie

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After learning he dreamed of becoming a sound engineer, local radio station Jacaranda FM teamed up with The Academy of Sound Engineering to offer Moses a bursary to study Audio Technology. [Like many homeless people Moses has a drug addiction, so they’ve also arranged for him to spend six weeks in rehab to get clean before his studies start.] You can read more here.

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