Cameroon: Govt to Rehabilitate Street Children

Cameroon: Govt to Rehabilitate Street Children
The Post (Buea)

28 April 2008
Posted to the web 28 April 2008

Elvis Tah

In its efforts to transform the lives of street children, the government of Cameroon is working on a national programme geared towards the rehabilitation of more than 800 in that category.

In line with the programme, the Southwest Provincial Delegate of Social Affairs, Fon Valentine Asongtia Foreke, recently disclosed to The Post that his Delegation has put a good number of the street children in rehabilitation centres.

"We have counselled some of these street children, opened up a mechanic and carpentry workshop for them in Tiko. We have enrolled more than 25 of them in Kumba, from FCFA 4 million given by the government. We also give them psychosocial assistance," said Fon Asongtia.

Quizzed on what his Delegation is doing to reintegrate these children with their families, the Delegate said most of the children tell lies and give wrong information about themselves and their families, thereby making it difficult for the social worker to get in touch with their real families.

That notwithstanding, Fon Asongtia said his Delegation has been able to reunite some of the children with their families or provide them with a trade."Concerning those who came about as a result of the "oga" syndrome (master-servant contact), we try and educate their masters and see if they could be reintegrated or learn a trade," said Asongtia.

The Delegate added that in line with the national programme, the Borstal Institute in Buea is undergoing rehabilitation to create trade departments that can render the children economically self-sufficient.

Still expounding on the Borstal Institute, Asongtia said there are two placement procedures there: judicial and administrative."The judicial placement is when the children or minors are sent to the institute by a magistrate as a result of a crime they committed. Under this placement, the institute informs the court on the changes of the child’s misdemeanours behaviours.

"Under the administrative placement, the minor is handed over to the institute by a social worker or a family who finds him/her obstinate. The institute informs the court before accepting the child," the Delegate said.

He pointed out that the Delegation also sponsors a Grade I teacher who teaches the minors at the Buea Central Prison, all of these is in a bid to eradicate juvenile delinquency.

Apart from mad people that wander about the streets, many children are increasingly joining them. They are found mostly inhabiting bus stops and video game houses. Some of these street children sleep on the verandas of off-licences and bars, and in abandoned or uncompleted houses.

In Douala, the Catholic Cathedral seems to be providing a safe haven for them where many have their beddings under a tent, where they retire from their daily activities to doze.

These street children come from different backgrounds and for various reasons; those who break up from their families because of disequilibrium and those who get to the streets because they have a misunderstanding with their benefactors or masters.

Some of such children are of Nigerian origin who are brought to Cameroon to serve as shop keepers or house helps, and after a misunderstanding with their masters, they flee to the streets.

A majority of such children are found in Kumba and Tiko in the Southwest Province.

The second category of street children are those who are actually living with their parents or guardians but are out of school, probably to hawk and supplement the family income.

The third category is of Arab extract that move along with their mothers, in markets and strategic places to beg for money.

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