Thursday, July 25, 2024

Dry bones lure toddlers into the streets; are we failing to address conundrum of street kids?

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We were perambulating the streets of the city of Kitwe checking on the street kids, as we normally do Tuesdays, when we got attracted to a sudden commotion around the famous freedom statue (chimposa mabwe)! A horde of toddlers were being violently pulled around by an enraged mob. They were wailing hysterically as they desperately tried to set themselves free from the tight grips. They were 6 of them altogether, we later gathered the youngest was 6 while the oldest was 9 years old!

“We’re taking you to the police!” the mob was shouting. “You’re too young to be on the streets!”

Upon noticing us, the street vendors cooled their tempers and demanded that we do something about it, immediately.

“Faza (big man) they’re saying they came to the streets to find bones; they’re better off staying at home eating porridge than coming to compete for bones with those….” one of them pointed at a bunch of street kids busy sniffing glue at a distance.

The central business district was almost brought to a stand still as everyone – street vendors, passersby and street kids alike had abandoned whatever they were doing to witness what was happening.

“Is it true you came to find bones?” we probed.

At the prompting of the older one, the pickaninnies had followed the Ndola/Kitwe Dual Carriageway and endured a punishing 8 kilometres trek to find leftover bones from food outlets around the city.The kids were definitely seconds away from starting life on the streets to join the already blossoming army of street kids. We weren’t going to allow that to happen, of course!

We bundled them into our small car and drove them to the Department of Social Welfare, a stone’s throw away. Unfortunately, we found the social welfare officer locked-up in a meeting and were asked to wait. After waiting a while, we couldn’t contain our patience any longer. We “stormed” the office of the District Commissioner and gave an account of what we had just experienced.

“Bwana DC, we’ve come here to seek your intervention so that these kids can get back to their families in Mulenga compound,” we made our request to the gentleman who didn’t seem very impressed. “As far as we’re concerned, this is an emergency that’s why we’d to suspend all our programmes to ensure these kids reunite with their families.”

After a flurry of phonecalls with several individuals briskly walking in and out of the office, it was a done deal! We were soon following a government vehicle with all the kids aboard.

But lo and behold, what we found in Mulenga was quite shocking. We felt our hearts sink into the pits of our stomachs! At all the four houses we called at to bring back the kids, we found their parents either engaged in vicious brawls or highly intoxicated, at times failing to balance themselves on their feet!

We couldn’t do anything other than warning them of severe consequences if they let their kids stray back on the streets again.

Our recommendations to government:

1. As those kids that rounded-up the said toddlers, most street vendors are graduates from the streets; motivate them by giving them grants to boost their businesses.
2. Introduce stiffer penalties for parents who neglect or fail to provide for their children; this would discourage citizens from bearing children anyhow.
3. The Department of Social Welfare must always be on the lookout for newly arrived kids (toddlers) on the streets and rescue them before they get exposed to genkem (glue).
4. Churches must be encouraged or empowered with resources to organise soup kitchens on their premises; this way, kids would definitely have an opportunity to enjoy decent meals as opposed to bones!
5. Take junkies to state run farms under the auspices of ZNS to undergo rehabilitation as well as learning some skills while they are put to work growing winter maize to help improve our national food security; believe it or not, junkies will vanish from the face of the earth!

Until next time……

Prince Bill M Kaping’a
Polical/Social Analyst

2 COMMENTS

  1. Well written and I support your recommendations.We need a united front to control such unfortunate incidents. Which if left unchecked, it is a nasty bomb which will erupt in the near future

  2. Why have children when you’re not capable of raising them and taking care of them? Anyway ,well written social welfare piece.

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