JESSICA MWANSA, Lusaka
JOSEPH Banda writhed with life and did not have the hope of a bright future but lived with the faith of achieving his dream of going back to school one day.
It was a dream come true when he earwigged passers-by who were talking about a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that offers sponsorship to the underprivileged.
Being among the hundreds of convicts that received the support was a life-changing indeed, he said. His dream befitted reality and seemed implausible on one Sunday morning that he marks as a blessing in his life.
‘‘After I heard the passers-by were saying, I got interested and walked remorsefully towards them and requested to have more information about the NGO. ‘‘One of them gave me the phone number”, he said joyfully, adding. That Saturday evening I rushed home to tell my grandfather about the news and he could not believe bearing in mind that I went supplicating.”
Poverty, parental mortality, exclusion from education and lack of support structures are the main drivers behind children ending up on the streets.
When Joseph was selected for the sponsorship, he managed to complete Grade 12 and he is currently at Fairview College pursuing a career in journalism.
He is an inquisitive person and one thing he enjoys doing is reading books to have an in-depth knowledge and understanding on life’s basics.
Mr Banda only prays for the others that they, too, could have a chance to go back to school. “Without education one is without a future, which means that they will not be able to defend their future and will face lots of difficulties to have a better life,’’ he said.
Like werewolves transforming before a full moon, a metamorphosis occurs on the streets of Lusaka every night. Under the cover of night, relatively harmless youths transform into aggressive children, attacking and robbing passers-by in the name of earning something to feed on.
The streets are dangerous and nearly all people who were interviewed reported having experienced some form of victimisation.
Samson Nyirenda is one such person who was attacked and robbed by street children.
“As I was heading home from work, two street kids attacked me and took my wallet and phones. When I tried to fight back, they hit me with a stone and ran away,” Mr Nyirenda said.
A successful response to the situation of street children has been highly dependent on knowledge-based decision- making.
The situation of street children in Zambia gives a critical insight into the phenomenon. This problem of street kids is one of the major challenges being faced in Lusaka Province. The street children and adolescents are exposed to immoralities such as child prostitution, burglary and early pregnancies resulting in most of them contracting HIV and AIDS. Girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
They expose themselves to very cruel situations like sexual violations, drug consumption and other forms of modern bondage. According to stolenchildhood.net ,“Street children in the third world, having no access to basic needs, always become an easy prey of flesh traders.
In order to curb the problem of street kids, Support for Vulnerable Children and Active Leadership (SUVUCAL), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) for vulnerable children, orphans and widows, has been empowering street kids and widows to get involved in entrepreneurial activities and later send them to school so that they do not go back to the streets.
Mr Eugene Machona, who is the founder of SUVUCAL said giving food and coins to affected children, is not a solution to keeping them off the streets, but rather engaging them in recreation activities and helping them to discover their God-given talents.
“Zambians should not be good at temporary measures especially towards the vulnerable but permanent solutions (to remove them from the streets). These children are on the streets because they have nothing to eat and no activities to keep them busy. But at the end of the day, they need dignity,” Mr Machona said.
SUVUCAL was formed in 2015 and launched in 2017 by the minister of Community Development and Social Welfare Emmerine Kabanshi with the mandate towards ‘creating communities of integrity and creativity’. The organisation has spread wings from Lusaka to Copperbelt, North-Western, Eastern, and Western provinces, reaching out to about 2,100 beneficiaries.
It is the inquisition of helping the vulnerable that inspired Mr Machona to found an NGO that would sustain the needs of vulnerable children, men and women society with the aim of equipping street children and youths with relevant skills and professions.
However, he has created an enabling environment for vulnerable households to access micro-finance so that they could engage in income- generating activities and in the process reduce children’s vulnerability to poverty.
JESSICA MWANSA, Lusaka