It is not always easy to work with street children. They often become hardened victims of a society that feels threatened by them. Peer pressure, as well as cultural and working conditions on the street are difficult issues that we have to deal with. A major task therefore is to establish a working relationship with the children. For this, we have to spend time on the street to know their world, so that a trusting relationship can be established.
Many groups of street children have their own special language, which is not known by outsiders. This special language helps to unite them.
Here in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, we have three areas where the street children are found - namely Intercity bus station, North-mead market, and Town centre. It’s in these three places that they spend their nights, and under the railway bridges during the day.
One of the biggest problems that street children face is gender discrimination. The children are kicked out from their houses due to the problem of gender discrimination. Then the children are often abused by people on the streets because they don't understand the real situation these street children pass through.
The problem of begging is increasing day by day, and there is no proper solution. Begging is considered a cure, as it is another name of poverty. The street children are hated in the entire world as they block the roads and traffic lights while begging. Some parents force their children onto the street to beg from people. The life of a street child is all about begging, selling, robbery or snatching the purse and wallet of the people in the streets.
However, mainly children on the streets are double orphans (both parents are dead) while others are single orphans (one parent still living) and there are both girls and boys.
Child labour is one of the most disturbing problems that the street children face. The life of a street child is very complicated and no one ever can understand it. Some of the ways a street child can make a living are to the pick the plastic bags from the streets and sell them on, wash cars, beg or shine shoes. The child has to work to get some coins for food in the morning, afternoon and evening. This life becomes more difficult to survive and some end up dying without help.
Weak health is another big problem that street children face because of the drugs they take. Sniffing solvents to prevent feeling hungry and cold mainly leads them to death, but young girls also become pregnant and have abortions or lose the baby because of ill health. As street educators, we don't give the children money or take medication to them but simply provide them with some food. It is the smallest virtue if we can bring them to the Mthunzi Children’s Programme and provide them with a roof over their heads and an education, provided by the Scottish charity ZamScotEd. The sadness is that people always call these children ‘hungry dogs’.
The children are kicked out to the streets due to different circumstances in different homes. They mainly come from the poorest areas like Misisi, Kanyama, Chibolya and Lilanda compounds. They then spend their whole life on the street. As they grow up, they work in small hotels, sell newspapers and they normally go into prostitution to earn their living. They don’t blame anyone for their present condition as they are not mature enough to understand.
The numbers of street children are increasing because of the neglect of the parents or issues such as violence or psychological abuse. The life of a street child starts when he or she is forced to leave home for a range of reasons.
Our proposal for the future is to find funding for a drop-in centre in town as a place of safety for the street children.