Rwanda: Street Children May Be a Future Menace
The New Times (Kigali)
23 May 2007
Posted to the web 23 May 2007
I am inspired to write on the future that awaits street children in Kigali and other urban areas. Their current trend leaves one to wonder if they will not grow up to be professional highway robbers or even diehard criminals.
As one travels along Nyabugogo highway in Kigali City, the street children can be seen stealing banana and Irish potatoes from moving trucks, yet nobody seems to mind what type of fellows these kids will grow up to be.
At one point, a street child jumped off a moving truck which was carrying scrap metal and landed in the middle of the Nyabugogo highway while holding a big piece of scrap metal, missing death narrowly from other speeding vehicles.
There are many non-governmental organisations in Rwanda, which are entrusted with the duty of helping and bringing up children of this nature to be responsible citizens.
These include: Save The Children, UNICEF, Christian Aid, World Vision, UNDP and KURET (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia Together) among others. It beats one’s mind to find these powerful international NGOs standing by watching these children going astray day by day.
The government has on several occasions tried to relocate these children to rehabilitation centres, but most of them run away and find themselves back in the streets.
With the support of NGOs, the government cannot fail to round up and permanently rout these kids out of the streets. Besides involving themselves in lawless activities, street children portray a bad picture to tourists and other foreign dignitaries who visit Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.
Street children do exist in almost all African countries. It is not, therefore, true to claim that Rwandan street children are all a product of the 1994 Genocide and the civil war that rocked the country for many years, which resulted in many orphans and homeless children countrywide.
Many factors contribute to the emergence of street children. The major factor is that these are children born as a result of prostitution, where the mother does not know the legitimate father of the child.
When the child grows to about five years and fails to be provided with the necessary love from parents, the kid will resort to living on street verandas or under sewage trenches. Other children find their way into the streets as a result of mistreatment from parents. These types are always furious and merciless to other street kids because they have been subjected to a brutal life. To them, everybody they meet is likened to their harsh parents.
Some other children are sent to the streets to beg for money by their parents.
These kids are always polite and beg passersby for as little as Frw20. At the end of the day, they return to their parents in the city neighbourhood with the day’s collection. Others of this type prefer to offer cheap services to the city people such as guarding a parked vehicle for as little as Frw50 or carrying luggage at the market in return for payment.
In addition to the hardships incurred by street children in their daily life, they are also vulnerable to harassment from grown-up city rogues who rape street girls and beat up the male street children. As a result, many are exposed to the deadly HIV/Aids infections.
Many national and international laws govern children’s rights namely: human rights law, private international law, the law of obligation, and special criminal law, among others. Children’s rights are not special rights, but rather the fundamental rights inherent to human dignity.
It therefore follows that children- without discrimination in any form – should benefit from special protection measures and assistance, have access to services such as education and health care, develop their personalities, abilities and talents to the fullest potential, grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding, among other rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty ratified by many countries that recognizes the human rights of children defined as persons up to the age of 18 years.
There is also a permanent elected body known as the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which consists of independent experts that sit in Geneva. Their main function is to ensure signatory countries submit regular reports on the status of children in their country.
The committee further reviews and comments on these reports and encourages states to take special measures to develop institutions for the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Where necessary, the committee calls for international assistance from other governments and technical assistance from non- governmental organizations.
In addition to increasing the number of street children, Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide and the civil war created a big number of homeless orphans.
The majority of these children have been adopted by families who themselves are very poor, to provide the necessary care needed by these children. As a result, some of them have defected from these foster families and found themselves in urban areas.
Their foster families have subjected others to hard labor, which is contrary to Rwanda’s labor laws that govern minors less than 18 years.
In coclusion, the government should give priority to the problems of street children, because the kids cannot form organizations to speak for themselves. Rwandan well-wishers should also assist the government in finding a lasting solution for street children.