By KETRA KALUNGA
ZAMBIA is fighting a street war. To remove children from roaming streets and get them back into schools and in their homes.
This is a battle because children are being exposed to abuse and drugs on the streets, and it is important that those who can be assisted and rehabilitated are removed from the streets. It is not an easy task because most street kids resist any kind of attempt to removed from roaming streets.
According to drop-in centres taking care of children rescued from streets is tough because most run away to rejoin their friends.
There is also the issue of some adults renting children as escorts on begging errands. The children are happy to do this because of the commission they get from the blind persons that they assist in begging.
It is not every child on the street corner begging that has no home to go to. There are a number of factors that pushes a child to the streets. Among them, poverty, loss of a parent or both, abusive families, avoiding discipline and in some cases peer pressure.
Among the above reasons, poverty and loss of a parent or both are the major contributing factors to the increase in the number of street kids as indicated by the kids themselves who are on the streets.
And this could only be attributed to the dwindling of strong ties in extended families.
It is for this reason that something must be done in order to reduce the increasing number of children on the streets.
This is so because the plight of these children in need of care require a number of interventions to ensure they are removed from the streets and reintegrated with their families.
To do this, government through the ministry of Youth, Sports and Child Development has set aside resources to empower vulnerable families that have lost their children to the streets because of poverty among other factors.
Youth, Sports and Child Development minister, Moses Mawere said the ministry have embarked on an exercise of identifying children that were on the streets because of poverty, rehabilitating them and together with their families find a lasting solution to the problem.
Speaking in Kabwe district when he met parents and their street kids, Mr Mawere said families with financial challenges would be empowered with funds so that their children could come back from the streets and stop asking for arms giving.
The minister said that during the identification process, street kids from families capable of sustain themselves, would undergo intensive counseling to help them see the badness in being on the streets.
The Bible says train up a child in the way you would what him to go and when he grows will not depart from it, that is what patents should endeavor to do at all times, said the minister.
And Mr Mawere urged families to increase the will of taking care of extended family members that may be in need of help.
“When I started this exercise, I thought it was simple but its actually very rooted, it has to do with ourselves because our minds are eroded with bad intentions towards our neighbour,” he said.
Central province permanent secretary, Chanda Kabwe said hearing street kids give their reasons for being on the street touched him deeply.
Speaking at the same event, Mr Kabwe said it was unfortunate that extended families have stopped taking care of children that have lost a parent or both and those living in poverty.
“Am touched by the stories coming from street kids themselves, I lost my father when I was seven years old but I never felt being alone because by then extended family ties were strong compared to those of nowadays,” he said.
Mr Kabwe said as the province they would start working on solving the problems surrounding street kids by engaging parents on the matter which he said needed serious attention.
He also called for the need to engage the church to speak strongly about love at family level so that children that lose a parent or both are not neglected and end up on the streets.
Street kids and parents that attended the meeting held for them and their children echoed Mr Chanda’ s call for prayers on the matter.
A parent, Brian Chomba said he had on several occasions tried to remove his grand son from the streets but to no avail.
Mr Chomba feels prayers were the only solution for his grand son who is in grade three to leave the streets because he had never failed to provide for him.
Another parent, Gloria Mushota said prayers for children on the Streets and financial assistance to vulnerable families were needed in solving the problem of street kids.
Ms Mushota therefore commended government for setting aside funds to support vulnerable families in its quest to keep children away from the streets.
Kabwe district child protection chairperson, John Yamba advised parents that were in a habit of refusing to embrace their children after the efforts from authorities to reintegrate them with their families to start accepting them back.
Mr Yamba also warned parents against sending their children to sell merchandise on the streets as the trend was encouraging kids to be on the streets.
Some of the children are pushed on the streets by their own parents who usually send them to sell food staffs on the streets, others refuse to take a child in after efforts from authorities to reintegrate them,” he said.
Government and stakeholders’ involvement in supporting this noble cause coupled with commitment from families whose children are on the streets on the matter, may help reduce the number of kids on the streets not only in Kabwe district but the rest of the country.
Clearly this battle needs everyone to come on board. The African culture regards a child as belonging to the community and it is this unity that needs to be promoted. Children need to feel that they belong to a community and to have someone to go to should anything wrong happen.