They are probably one of the most marginalized group in society. To them basic rights to education, shelter, medical care and are a farfetched dream.
They continue to grow in numbers, their problems are well documented but little or nothing is done about their welfare of Street kids.
On November 21, 2006 then Member of Parliament for Chifunabuli constituency Earnest Mwansa warned that street kids are a time bomb waiting to explode.Ten years after Mr Mwansa made those remarks in parliament, I ask
the question, is the problem of street kids in Zambia still a time bomb?
I have had an encounter a number of street kids during a church outreach programme in the streets of Lusaka and Kitwe. These encounters have been revealing. I have learnt hands on what led these kids on the streets.
The reasons vary, Others escaped the poverty at home, some attribute their stay in the highways to neglect by guardians or losing one or both parents, broken families among others.
The rights of these children are rarely recognized, for example these kids do not go to school, they have no access to proper health care, and shelter is also a problem. In as much as education is not the only way to success, it
is one of the sure ways to attain greatness.
In a society like ours where over 50 percent of the population is composed of young people, education should be necessity. For as long as these kids do not have access to it then there is little or no light at the end of the tunnel.
Unlike their colleagues who have homes, street children don’t have an opportunity to learn some skills usually acquired by people who grow up in a home.
There have been initiatives Zambia National Service (ZNS) street children’s skills training programmes, some non-
governmental organizations have also tried to integrate these children but problem is still with us.
There have been a few success stories here and there but overall the problem has continued. This is testament to the fact that more has to be done to combat this issue.
The problem of street kids is not for government alone neither is it a sole responsibility of NGOs. It is a problem for us all. There is need for a multi-sectorial approach in arresting this situation.
The church has a role to play, the business community has a corporate social responsibility to the community and aiding street kids would not be a bad idea.
Even in our individual capacity there is something we can do about street kids, I am not talking about giving arms, rather we can share a moment with them, inspire them and encourage them that not all is lost.
Society needs to show care. We need to devise ways of liberating these young souls from the waters of poverty they swim in every day.
There is need to help them secure a future because it is their right.
Some of them have married in thestreets and are raising their children there. Imagine what the future holds for an innocent kid born and bred in the streets? The consequences of neglecting street children now will be too big for us
to bear as a nation in future. The sooner we start taking practical steps to addressing this issue the better. These boys and girls are growing up unskilled and unemployable there by resorting to crime as a means of survive.
Is that the future we want for Zambia? No.During the day they are vulnerable and defenceless children but at
night they pose a security risk to innocent citizens. That should be a source of concern for everyone.
Already we have been witnessed ugly scenes of political violence, gender based violence (GBV) and the suspected ritual killings among other atrocities.
Those that have been apprehended in connection with the aforementioned ills have been found to be young people (usually male) who are just in their mid- twenties and early thirties.
Authorities and the general citizenry are at pains to comprehend what is fuelling these acts that have been deemed by many as unpatriotic. Have we ever bothered to dig into the background of the suspects of these crimes?
Where have they grown, what was their upbringing like, among other information? Such information is vital. Where are the street kids that honourable Mwansa once referred to as a “time bomb” a decade ago?
They certainly have grown up into middle aged women and men, but what is their occupation now? Is it possible that some of them are among the people committing these crimes as a means of survival?
I would not entirely rule out that possibility. It is not my intention to leave you with more questions than answers
however I cannot help one more question. In view of the rise of violence and all kinds delinquencies in the country, Is the problem of street kids in Zambia still a time bomb, or may be the time bomb has exploded?