Monday, March 26, 2007
By Masuzyo Chakwe and Mwala Kalaluka
Monday March 26, 2007 [02:00]
CITIZENS Forum executive secretary Simon Kabanda has urged the government to begin the process of coming up with a long-term policy on street children. And NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale has said it is not justifiable to exclude married street children from the Zambia National Service rehabilitation programme. In an interview yesterday, Kabanda said only a policy on street children could help find a long-term solution to the increasing problem.
"The government must begin to come with a policy on street children. A policy on street children is what we need because this is becoming a very big problem in the country," Kabanda said. "The issue here is larger than just identifying whether someone is married or not." He said the rehabilitation of street kids in ZNS camps would not entail anything if a policy framework did not back it. "A policy would be able to articulate when the street children should go to rehabilitation camps and what things they are going to do," he said.
Kabanda said the government should not leave out other stakeholders in the process of coming up with a policy to deal with the issue of street children. He said further that situations like the one that occurred in Lufwanyama where residents demanded for the eviction of street kids from the area after they went on rampage, could be addressed when there was comprehensive policy in place.
And Mwale said streetism had no face and did not matter whether it was a girl or boy. She said the fact that street children were marrying each other showed that there was another problem. "They are having children and marrying each other because they have nothing else to do. They have no skills and maybe they find solace in marriage. So stopping these girls from entering the training programme is not solving the problem but merely compounding it because they will still continue having children so we need to look at the problem as a whole," she said.
Mwale said from the onset, government had been slow in finding a lasting solution to the problem of street children. "These ZNS camps are being opened to find a means of survival and it does not matter whether it is a girl or boy whether married or not, there is need to show leadership by providing positive interventions," she said. Mwale said there was need to find out how sustainable the programmes were and how they were using the skills after they left the camps.
She said the country had not seen much on the support training programme after they acquire their skills. And community, development and social services minister Catherine Namugala said government was targeting 6,000 children this year.
She said it had been observed from a recent study carried out that only 25 per cent of the children found on the streets slept there and the rest had some sort of homes. "We have 13,200 street children countrywide permanently on the streets with the majority in Lusaka. The K6.4 billion that has been allocated to them in this year's budget will be used to implement programmes for them," she said.