The phenomenon of street children is a world problem and over tens of millions of street children are found across the world. Rwanda considers street children as a category of children in need of special protection. It also considers street children as one of the categories of vulnerable children, with strong commitment to the child’s right protection. UNICEF estimates that there are about 7,000 street children in the country while close to 300,000 live in families where a minor is the head of the household. The economic challenges, domestic violence, parental irresponsibility, and broken family relationships have exacerbated the situation of street children.
Since July 2022, GNPDR has started a Rehabilitation programme for Street Children, which aims to improve the lives of street children by reintegrating them into families or foster care, and supporting them to have access to education through empowering their families for sustainable livelihoods. The outreach to Street Children has been done in Kigali, where we started with two sites – Kiduruduru and Nyabisindu in Gasabo district Kigali city. Jeremiah Asiimwe and Angelique Sangwa visit the children in those sites twice a week, and they identify issues that affect the street kids and collect information about children and their families. For every fieldwork, Children are given food and then afterwards, conversation is carried out between children and staff members for more information concerning them.
Various interrelated factors leading to the existence of the problem of street children in Kigali include Poverty, family breakdown, child abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Many families who are marginalized economically have become seriously dysfunctional. As a result the children find themselves in circumstances that result in them leaving home and engaging in the unprotected and hazardous street life rather than trying to survive the dysfunctional family environment.
Most of children on the street are between 10 -18 years old just a few of them are 18 years old; in addition to that, most of these children are boys and very few girls. There are two categories of street children; for insistence those who spend all their time on the street and those who live at home and come on the street sometimes. Most of these children take drugs like smoking cigarettes, marijuana and other drugs.
We organize a playing day once in a while where we bring children to the pitch and have fun together. This helps us teach them some positive values and after playing, we tell them about the love of Christ and the good plans He has for them. We give them food, hygienic materials to clean their bodies, and we plan for the next meeting. We have learned that some of these children are tired of street life and want to go back home. However, we need to first talk with their parents or caretakers about important things to keep the children in the families before they go back. Some of them don’t have parents at home and the challenge is to get foster families for them.
Challenges faced by the street children
- Difficulties in maintaining basic needs like food, clothes, water, shelter, among others;
- Lack of access to health services
- Violence and abuse among themselves and from people surrounding them
- Dangerous unsafe living conditions
- Gender discrimination
- Street children’s rights remain threatened and undermined in many cases.
Needs for the street children.
- Some of the children need to be taken back home and to school with scholastic materials.
- Some need to be adopted to live in families, as they don’t have any parent to take care of them.
- They need to access health services for improvement of their health
- In addition, they need effective psychological support as they go through traumatic situations and some of them think it is better to stay on the street than in families.
- They also need someone to listen to them, show mercy and care, and help them find a way out.
In conclusion, the street children need help to get out of this hopeless life, someone to show them compassion, kindness and polish future for them. Let us do whatever we can to bring the solution to this big problem for our society.