A couple of weeks ago, Youth and Sports Minister Emmanuel Mulenga revealed that hundreds of street kids who were recently removed from the streets and taken to shelter homes and orphanages across the country had ‘escaped’ and found their way back to the streets. He went to town sensationalizing things a bit further and claimed that street kids were resorting back to the streets in search of sex and drug-related materials.
As expected, this received wide media coverage from both electronic and print media. “Hundreds of recently-removed street kids escape orphanages for sex and drugs,” declared a screaming banner headline in the widely circulating Times of Zambia newspaper. Having interacted and worked with street kids throughout Zambia and beyond our borders for quite a while, I’ve strong reservations about the unsubstantiated claims that street kids are running away from the supposedly safe homes in hot pursuit of sex! There must be better excuses than this.
According to our experience, when a child just arrives on the streets, they immediately get initiated into the ‘family’ by being introduced to illicit substances. “Here, take this……it will help you stay stronger…..” they’d often encourage each other. From then onwards, they’d sniff the glue repeatedly until they become addicts per excellence. You don’t expect such individuals to simply kiss, the small bottles which have been their constant companions, good bye without first working on their problem of addiction. They’ll sneak out to find drugs!
Additionally, the Zambia National Service facilities and indeed some orphanages where some of these children were taken to, things are organized as if it’s a typical military camp. Now wait a minute……..you’re dealing with individuals that are not accustomed to any rules and regulations and you expect them to adjust overnight? Once they feel they’re being pushed against the wall, they’ll simply walk away and gladly trek back where they feel they belong – on the streets! Of course the street kids are fully aware they won’t find the streets glittering with gold and decorated with fresh roses. They’d still be as rough as they left them. Every sentence is punctuated with insults, and one has to be ever on guard as screw drivers or knives are likely to come flying your direction at the slightest provocation. Worse still, enduring blistering cold nights on bare floors in open air places is the order of day and meals often have to be scavenged from dump sites. For as long as they can enjoy their freedom, they don’t care. This is their oyster!
In order to survive the harsh life on the streets, kids have to be tough even if it means pretending to put up a strong posture. This is the reason why many of the street kids seem to be in a permanent state of insobriety – to hide their shame and come out as these macho characters! But who are these street kids? Why are they on the streets in first place? What are they doing on the streets? Where did they come from? Do they have parents or any surviving relatives? Once we start interrogating and finding answers to such questions, then we’ll begin configuring a less obscure picture of the plight of street kids – vital information essential in arriving at tangible solutions to this conundrum. Attempting to provide answers to the problem of street kids devoid of first understanding who they really are is as good as offloading a rapid succession of bullets into the darkness hoping you’d somehow hit the target! In this write up we endeavor to identify and categorize the street kids accordingly.
According to a UNICEF research, there are basically two types of street kids: children on the streets and children of the streets.
Children on the streets: These may have a home and even one or two surviving parents. Mostly likely their parents can’t provide bread and butter for them on the table. Owing to this, they are compelled or even encouraged to take a long walk to town to ask for alms from some good Samaritans or undertake odd jobs such as hauling goods on their backs and cleaning cars. Once they manage to pocket one or two coins, you’ll see them proudly walking back home in high spirits rest assured that they won’t to go bed on empty stomachs that night.
Children of the streets: Having lost both their parents mainly due to HIV/AIDS or probably ran away from the custody of their relatives due to mental and physical abuse, they’ve cut off ties with their relatives. Obviously feeling neglected by society, they consider themselves as having nowhere else to run to – thus begins the arduous journey of practically living on the streets. Quite understandably, children of the streets tend to sniff copious amounts of glue to keep warm at night; they actually euphemistically refer to glue as a blanket!
Given the above, it would be totally illogical and irresponsible to apply similar interventions to either case scenario. The problem of street kids deserves to be tackled on a case by case basis. Suppose you’re a medical practitioner and two patients come calling on you; one is complaining of a severe headache while the other has a running stomach, would you prescribe the same medication? This is the most common mistake those in leadership tend to repeat time and again – prescribing similar remedies to the cancerous ailment eating up our street kids as if they’re all affected the same way. In our next offering, we amplify our calls for a national INDABA on street kids.
By Prince B.M. Kapinga
Street kids advocate
This is a very good article. I hope the powers that be hv taken or will take note. I never believed the government whn I heard it said that they had removed street kids from their ” home”. The organisation they try to rely on , the Zambia National Service, lacks capacity. They just shout at them. This is work for well-trsined social scientists.
Listening to the minister of youth and sport on that Sunday Interview, I now know that we have a wrong person in that ministry. Honorable Mulenga failed to articulate the stratergy and plans for the youth in this country. He does not even understand the complexity of youth structures and for sure does not understand the magnitude of the problem. I could see even the interviewer was struggling to understand what the minister was trying to say. We need a versatile person at this ministry. A man of action. Even Lusambo may be ca do well there. Honorable Mulenga NOOO! Try him at Ministry of Community and something something.
You cannot help someone who does not want to help themselves. The issue of homelessness and drugs is more prominent in the western world. Especially drugs there in diaspora. The only difference is that there the government hides it by housing addicts and hiding them away from street. The likes of tarino and munadkh are good examples of those benefiting from free housing in UK
Christian nation can’t even bath street kids.
Some how I don’t have remorse on street kids, all those thugs at Intercity bus terminals in Lusaka used to be street kids. On copperbelt they are the future jerabos.
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT
Dear Mr. President
REF: ITS A ZIGZAK; LIKE A FUFU VEVE AT STATE HOUSE!!,)
Mr president I do not understand what the title of my letter to you means. It is something I can’t explain: but one thing for sure is this is exactly what many of us ordinary Zambians are feeling. Confused and lost. Lost completely, confused a little bit.
Mr president I must start by saying that I am aware this letter won’t reach your eyes but those close to you will read and maybe this time around hint at you the content herein.
Sir, Zambia the country you chose to lead is in a serious crisis. Your people, God’s people who put you in office are complaining. Not only are they complaining but they are suffering as if they are children of a lesser God.
Your excellence when President…
Thank you for such an eye opening article, we can only hope and pray that it will reach the tables of well wishers, policy makers and other cooperating partners.
Personally, another problem I have seen with issue street kids is that most stakeholders think the solution this scourge is a one day “event.” Most of them still think that by moving the kids from the streets to a shelter, then boom, the problem is solved! Far from it. The problem of street kids is beyond shelter and material provision, these guys need counselling, mentorship, training and psychological help before they can be reunited into a normal functioning facility. As the author notes, all this cannot cannot be achieved in one day, it requires patience, love and genuine affection for these children.
And yet our President buys a private jet and KAIZER ZULU shows off drinking champagne on a private jet0
Very well written and informative article. It would be great if the powers that be up at State House read this and acted on it.
The issue of street kids can be sorted out easily, those are just young people who have lost it on the way and need serious help and strict guidance for their transformation. The problem is that the previous as well as the for former govts neglected the streets kids and never had a concrete plan to remove them from the streets. The author of the article seems to understand the root cause and maybe how to resolve this issue. Even NGOs have failed the street kids yet they have benefited much from their suffering from donors. Taking the kids to ZNS camps without a concrete plan is futile!
Kaizar Joseph Goebbels Zulu, so how much do you get paid to comment drivel on every article that appears on Lusaka Times? You need to declare your pay so we can tax you properly. Who pays you? C1ueless Lungu? And you seem to have an unhealthy obsession with the diaspora. Do they give you nightmares? You must have a really miserable existence. I doubt that you’re even married, otherwise your wife would try to pump some sense into your empty head. You’re cold-hearted, No empathy whatsoever, even after reading a sad story like this about street kids. To you these kids are of no value, only good to be referred to in a disparaging way. Shame on you and whoever pays you.
KZ what is your point? The article and your contribution do not seem to marry. The article is showing the procedure to help the street kids to integrate into normal society but you are painting a picture that the street kids dont want to be helped. The govt has very good intentions but its implementation procedure does not take into account the counseling aspect to help them assimilate into the normal society. That is what the article is talking about. Sometimes they say silence is golden.
The problem is not about leadership and military camp styled safeguarding accommodation for rescued kids.
It’s about poverty. Careless breeding, poor family planning and irresponsible parents. When citizens refuse the advice on child rearing, this what you get when they can’t cope…kids on streets. Socio-economic policies only work if people are ready to play their role.
Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is strong arm of the law in tandem with proper psychological, drugs and alcohol programs. It’s no use just rounding them up. They must give in to the rule of law like all of us. Not military style but caring strong love not enabling environment. Pick them up again and again, can’t give up on them.
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MOST CHILDREN ARE BORN WITH PRECOCIOUS VIOLENCE BECAUSE OF THE MEMES OF VIOLENCE WHICH PF HAS UNLEASHED UPON ZAMBIA. THESE STREET KIDS HAVE ONE HOPE: TO BECOME FULLY FLEDGED PF CADRES ONE DAY BECAUSE BEING IN THE STREETS CONSTITUTES AN EFFECTIVE APPRENTICESHIP TO VIOLENCE. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT STREETS KIDS ARE A CREATION OF FAILED GOVT POLICIES.
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