So often the term “streetkids”is thrown about loosely and upon a moment of idle thought, wondered if people actually take the time to think about this term or better yet, the children who are labelled by it. The questions that come to mind are, “Did the streets give birth to a child? Are these children born on the streets? There is a usual tendency to entertain the idea that street children are someone else’s problem and many a time they are referred to as juvenile delinquents, nuisances or societal menaces upon many other choice phases.
The shocking revelation found by research of cases handled by Simukai Child Protection Programme over the 13 years that the organisation has been working with children on the streets, is that most of these children came from regular families.
Some have relations who are prominent people in society. The majority however, of children found on the streets of Mutare are either orphaned, hail from families living in abject poverty, are victims of abuse from step-parents and other relations resulting in them leaving the home environment. The deviant ones upon reunifications or family tracing often have relatives that claim them to be targets of family and generational spirits that are tossed upon them as revenge or in order for someone within the family to prosper.
Street children often find themselves in situations where they are denied their rights such as education, nutrition,health, protection and the obvious shelter. Very few of these children choose to be on the streets, living or working. One child claimed that the money he makes on the streets allows him to have a decent meal a day. Whereas back home in the rural area where he hails from, there are eight children at the homestead and an elderly grandmother all struggling to survive on the climate affected, meagre agricultural produce.
Upon interviewing some random parents who were begging in the company of their children there was evidence that someparents seemingly encourage their children to work the streets engaging in money-making activities such as the selling of sweeping brooms, cooking sticks, vending vegetables, begging, washing cars etc. When questioned one visually impaired mother claimed to be financially unable to take care of her family, hence all family members have to contribute to the bread basket including the children.
During one of the many psychosocial support camps for street children held by Simukai Child Protection Programme, children claimed that upon the death of their guardians many relatives would attend funerals jousting to make heartfelt speeches of their loss, pledging their support and allegiance to the deceased’s offspring.
However as soon as the coffin is lowered into the ground, people supposedly grab what they can and bid hasty goodbyes with what has turned out to be false promises of coming back to ensure the wellbeing of the children left behind. Other children claimed to be living on the streets as a result of the separation of their parents with no one supposedly wanting to take the responsibility of caring for them. The questions that come to mind are, “Are we taking care of our own?” and also should you die today, who is going to take care of your children?
An article in the weekender in April 2013, reported of two little girls who became victims of sexual abuse during broad daylight in Aloe Park by an unknown assailant. These girls were said to be engaging in street activities such as vending sweeping brooms at hours whereby the average child is in school, hence placing them in a vulnerable position of being lured by potential customers. It was even more concerning the comments made by other children living and working on the streets that “sex has become almost like a hobby” leading to the assumption that there is quite a bit of premature sexual activity taking place between minors on the streets.
This goes to show that as a society, the level of care and guidance for children is rapidly deteriorating. The fact that two little girls could be led in the company of a male adult from Meikles Park an area usually densely populated during the day to a secluded park area without any intervention leads one to question society’s morals both of the assailant as well as lookers on.
Street children are not merely those living outside the family environment seen in alleyways at night or begging outside shops. The phenomenon has evolved to include those brought to “work” by parents who vend as well as those unleashed during the day to scavenge and forage for income and return to the family dwelling place at night. There are now also what are called “street families” living in squatter camps found in the peripheries of cities and towns. What people may not realise at times is that children on the streets whether living or working are very vulnerable todangers such as various forms of abuse,bullying, hygiene related illnesses, substance abuse and discrimination which are detrimental to their wellbeing and ability for a brighter future.
Every child is precious and with opportunity given, may turn out to be a beneficial member of society. Simukai Child Protection Programme’s goal is to ensure that children and youths achieve their full potential and, become productive and responsible members of society.However this cannot be a successful intervention without the efforts and cooperation of the members of the public who are often in strategic positions to be of assistance to children. The organisation appeals to people not to encourage street activities or discriminate against street children but to take time to advise them on how to access assistance which is permanent and holistic. This is done by referring them to the various organisations working with vulnerable children for instance Simukai. Also your views and comments on such articles are always greatly welcomed as they pave the way for improvements and provide the basis for the creation of effective intervention strategies.For feedback please get in touch with us on the following:
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Simukai child protection programme pvo27/12