By Pretty Chavango (@PrettyChavango)
Wandering children in Zimbabwe`s capital’s central business district of Harare is slowly becoming a norm, from as young as 8 years old to teenagers, these children roam the streets from the early hours of dawn till late at night, mastering the ‘art ‘ of begging at a tender age.
The popular cause for this growing trend is financial strain culminating in more and more children being forced onto the streets seeking the basics of life , food clothes and shelter – the basic right to education constantly being ignored as these children are seen in the streets during school hours, which brings up the question, what does their future hold?
Most of these children are homeless, and sleep on hard pavements through wind and rain, hot summer nights and chilly winters, while some of them come from their homes to beg , others acting as aides to their physically challenged parents or guardians from point to point in search of sustenance.
With the current economic strain many children are dropping out of school opting to earn or beg for their living, education being substituted for work as money becomes a priority, one may argue begging it may be their only source of livelihood, but as the old adage rings “if you think education is expensive try ignorance “, which makes one wonder what their future holds as leaders of tomorrow.
Section 10 (1) of Zimbabwe’s Children’s Act [Chapter 5:06], provides that:
(i)any parent or guardian of a child or young person, who allows that child or young person to
a) Beg , or
b) To accompany him/her whilst they beg , or
c) To induce or to endeavour to induce the giving of alms; or
d) To perform or to be exhibited in any way for public entertainment in a manner detrimental to the child or young person’s health , morals, mind and body; and liable to a fine not exceeding level six or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Despite the existence of such law and penalties accrued to contraventions of the law, blatant disregard continues unabated, children are seen aiding blind parents as they beg, others exposing themselves to accidents as they venture in the middle of robot controlled intersections.
Others are seen playing instruments alongside their parents / guardians as a means to attract money from passers-by, this is slowly becoming a norm as they are seen at almost all street corners, it is a survival means but it drains from tomorrow as they are instilled with the mindset if begging and might never learn to work for their keep.
There are multi-dimensional factors creating high risk factors leading to these children finding themselves on the street , marginalization, exploitation or victimization , they are susceptible to malnutrition, rape and isolation on the streets something they would have run from home to escape, others fleeing from abuse,corporal punishment from parents, poverty, stress, death of parents or psychological factors such as remarriage of a parent, foster families among others .
As Zimbabwe turns 36, policy-makers and society must be sensitized on the plight of these children in order to find a solution to this ill amongst us.