PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka
CHILDREN, both girls and boys, turn to the streets in search of a better life but the reality can only be described as obnoxious. Street life creates extreme vulnerability to violence, among other abuses.
Most of the children face a depressing future, without parents to care for them and with little or no help at all.Â The street children are often traumatised by the death of parents, stigmatised through association with HIV and often thrown into desperate poverty by the loss of breadwinners.
Mwiya Mubiyana could not help but shed tears as he narrated his experience on the street.
Ruthless, tormenting and brutal are the three words the 18-year-old uses to describe his life on the street.
Mubiyana was the only child born of Memory Manyando and Kasimba Mubiyana. His father died before he was born, his mother had to find means of fending for the family.
Mubiyanaâ€™s mother re-married and the family moved to Lusaka from western province. While in Lusaka, Mubiyana and his mother discovered that his stepfather was actually a married man.Â This meant Mubiyanaâ€™s mother was the second wife. The man could not afford to fend for two families.
Life became hard for Mubiyana and his mother as they were compelled to start fending for themselves.
At only 10 years, Mubiyana decided to join his friends on the street to help his mother put food on the table.
â€œLife became hard after we moved from my stepfatherâ€™s house. We rarely had food to eat. I decided to follow my friends on the street to help my mother put food on the table,
But one fateful day, I could not find my way back home, I started wandering the streets of Lusaka alone. After a few months I met a group of street kids who taught me ways of surviving on the street,â€ he narrated.
Mubiyana said most street children become ruffians due to what they go through on the street.
He said there is no parental guidance and each person has to find their own way of surviving.
Mubiyana said the girls are the most affected as they are often abused by the older boys though even the boys are not spared from abuse.
He said the most painful experience was when he was abused and taken advantage of by an older boy after he refused to share food which he got from the street.
Mubiyanaâ€™s life further took an even worse turn after he was hit by a vehicle.
â€œI was hit by a vehicle while trying to ask for help from one of the motorists on Independence Avenue. I got a deep cut and needed medical attention. Street kids do not visit hospitals as the treatment they receive from the medical personnel is that of hostility, hence my friends could not take me to the hospital,â€ he said.
Mubiyana later met with outreach workers from fountain of hope, a home for former street kids who were carrying out routine check-ups on the streets of Lusaka.
He was given the treatment he needed and was later offered a place to stay until he got better.
Mubiyana reunited with his mother, four yours after his settlement at fountain of hope .
He however, did not allow his circumstances to ruin his dream of becoming a lawyer. He is doing his grade 10 at Thornhill secondary school.
â€œOnce I complete school, I want to be a lawyer. I want to represent my friends on the street who often do not have anyone to protect them in times of trouble,â€ he said.
Mubiyana said he wants to build a mansion for his mother and help sponsor other children at fountain of hope to school.
â€œI am encouraging other young people who have the opportunity to be in school to study hard and make their parents proud. The street is not the only place to find help, there are other people who could help when in need,â€ he said.
He has appealed to non- governmental organisations that deal with girl children to rescue girls from being abused on the street by finding them better shelter.
Mubiyana has commended fountain of hope orphanage proprietor Rodgers Mwewa for giving him hope for a better future.
He has appealed to other stakeholders to partner with Government to find a lasting solution that will help to reduce the number of street kids in Zambia.
As for Mr Mwewa, he was compelled to help street kids by offering them a home because of his love for children.
â€œFountain of hope is a one-stop centre which provides medical, legal and spiritual services that children need. We are currently just accommodating boys but we will soon open it to the girls once resources are availabale,â€ he said.
He however said the orphanage is still experiencing a number of challenges and has appealed to other stakeholders to come on board and help the children.
PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka