"Where we stayed was very bad ... ": Migrant children's perspectives on life in informal rented accommodation in two southern African cities

Nicola Ansell, Lorraine van Blerk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


Most research and initiatives relating to children's experiences of urban space have focused on the physical environment. Housing policies in Third World countries have also emphasised the provision of physical infrastructure and buildings, and urban aesthetics. In this paper the authors draw on the voices of young informants from Maseru (Lesotho), and Blantyre (Malawi), who, in discussions concerning moving house, chose to talk about social and economic aspects of life in the informal sector rented accommodation that is increasingly characteristic of these and many other African cities. The children offer insight into the peopling of urban space, mapping unruly environments characterised by disorder, gossip, and social contestation, far removed from the hard technocratic spaces imagined by planners. Their observations are important not only because children represent a very large and relatively neglected proportion of African urban dwellers but also because they offer a unique insight into the dynamic character of urban environments. As close observers of adult decisionmaking processes, children are informed commentators on motivations for moving house as well as the impacts of urban environments on their own lives. Not only do the children highlight the inadequacies of the informal private rental sector but they also offer a window onto why it is inadequate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-440
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005


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