Understanding street children in Africa
Street children exhibit the best of resilience.
They live on the fringes of life and face a world of extreme uncertainties and chances of survival, a kind of life that is alien to society at large.
The best thing society does is push them beyond the limits of life, making it extremely difficult to survive the already harsh conditions of the open world, without shelter, warm clothing, guarantees of a meal, protection and recognition.
However, if they are given the opportunity to benefit from community development programs, like any other citizen, they prosper.
Unfortunately, this is never the case. It is the well-off who continue to benefit from such programs, while turning a blind eye to the poor as street children.
It is important to know that these children have great potential to become resourceful with their abusive families, their communities, and their neglectful country and world, either on their own or with the support of hostile authorities.
Street children are the most resilient human beings to be found, fitting easily into job opportunities that require resilient people if there is such a need.
But this does not mean that only “dangerous” places are better for them as a source of livelihood. They are also human, who deserve the best for their lives and, in fact, they know it and look towards that life. It is unfortunate that they have to go through difficult and risky routines to find a coin or a few coins. With their income they can buy food, drinking water and clothes for their leisure activities.
Essentially, they rely on begging, collecting waste materials, washing cars, collecting water for small business owners, cleaning utensils in exchange for food, and in extreme cases band for individual safety. against hostile neighborhoods and upgrade to robbing for a living.
If compassion were the rule in dealing with street children, extreme forms of behavior could not arise between street children and the authorities.
The standard of living is set by the families they come from, the communities and the city authorities who are obliged to protect them.
Violence against children and later against street children has three levels. This is enough to push any human being into the jungle. They face discrimination and exclusion from neighborhood and city authorities, and are not part of the urban development agenda, and appear antisocial, whose best place is the detention center or prison.
As they face a world of extreme uncertainties and odds of living and surviving, society at best pushes them further to the end of the limits that life can tolerate. This makes it extremely difficult for them to survive the already harsh conditions in the open world, without shelter, warm clothing, guarantees of food, protection, and recognition.
But, sooner rather than later, and through group initiation, difficult circumstances become normal, and it is (normality) that gives them the strength to carry on every day, to surprise or scare people outside their structures. group.
Over time, they survive very well and dominate the slum business. With more support, wanting the opportunity very much, they succeed in their small business and join the core of the informal sector.
At this point, the street children we once knew as such are different human beings. Some participants in a 2019 IMI study in downtown Kampala showed some of the street children dressed so elegantly that life on the street was now a thing of the past.
Yet they remained so popular with “distressed” street children. Despite making such progress, they showed the need to go back to school and increase prospects for better job skills; And, like most unemployed youth, they sought higher-paying job opportunities within their abilities and skill sets.
As such, their socioeconomic status can be enhanced so that they join the core communities as “legitimate” citizens and city dwellers.
Furthermore, street children could become national and international icons, if given a hand to do so. That way, they can even go on to join the leadership of the country.
For now, they grapple with all kinds of difficulties and uncertainties they face on the streets, including what is thrown at them by the so-called legitimate actions of city dwellers and authorities.
A research mission on the “Impact of street children on the development of cities” showed that they had great potential to become resourceful citizens if they were given opportunities as those who celebrate life’s successes. There was also evidence that they made their way into the informal sector, the one renowned for faster ROI and quick setup to get rich.
As a basic right and source of livelihood, they demanded to live in the cities like any other citizen, to benefit from the economic boom that characterizes urban areas. They longed to be treated as human beings entitled to protection by law.
In particular, discrimination and hostility from neighborhoods and city authorities were the main crowds in their fight for a decent life.
Street children were often treated as outlaws, without the opportunity to acquire developmental and exposure skills to promote their talents, primarily in music and soccer.
The needs were educational, economic, health, which included; talent promotion, active participation and benefit from community development programs, such as business start grants, talent promotion programs, vocational learning, language skills development, business skills, life skills, sexual and reproductive health knowledge, or access those services.
And, although these development programs came into force, the economic appreciation of occasional and part-day tasks improved their self-esteem, so they preferred to have such support granted at the same time as education and informal work.
At the institutional level, it was necessary to share field reports, collaborate on research, joint interventions and make use of teams to support recreation and rehabilitation with a focus on Africa, through established development agencies, in order to change the face demonized from street children and ensuring a decent future for them.