By BONNIE ABOLA
THE escalating number of street children under the age of 15 in Lae means there will be more children not attending school when the academic year begins at the end of the month.
Major Sere Kala of Salvation Army of North Coastal Division headquarters said there was a growing number of street children from the settlements outside the city begging for a living in the city’s main business areas.
He said in the last three years, the Salvation Army in Lae had been rehabilitating the unfortunate youths, but this year there would be an inclusion of children from 8-15 years in their Street Level Ministry.
Their four-month pilot project, Wantok – Bridge Building, is targeting these children.
“In five years time, a 10-year-old child who is unfortunate but harmless now will be 15, and exposed to drugs, criminal activities and other bad influences in order to survive, therefore, rehabilitating the young street children now will help alleviate criminal activities and lawlessness in the future,” Major Kala said.
The first phase of the programme which started in 2005 was to build a relationship with the children. At this time it was revealed that many of them were abused, neglected, forced out of their families because of the inability to care for them and a few orphaned because both their parents had died of AIDS.
The project will officially kick off next month, where they will run a Street Feeding Programme twice a week.
During this time, information about the child’s family, place of residence and other vital data will be gathered.
The second phase of the programme was to have the children get basic education three times a week from qualified teachers and educators.
They will be taught basic health, reading and writing and also partake in character building activities.
The programmes are likely to be carried out at the Niall Reserve, Eriku, Toptown and the Salvation Army yard.
By BONNIE ABOLA