Malawi commemorates street children’s day
Malawi joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day for Street Connected Children today.
According to Association of Social Workers in Malawi General Secretary, who is also Commissioner of Ethics: African Region of the International Federation of Social Workers, Stephano Akuzike Joseph, the day offers stakeholders an opportunity to reflect on the welfare of disadvantaged children.
“International Day for Street Connected Children is celebrated on April 12 every year. The day provides a platform for the millions of children on the streets around the world – and their champions – to speak out so that their rights will not be ignored. In Malawi, the day provides stakeholders with an opportunity to take cognizance of the issues of street connected children which have been neglected for far too long.
“Nowadays, a week does not pass without hearing a story of street connected children in social media, especially in Blantyre and Lilongwe cities. The issues that are linked to street connected children are always negative and usually described with demeaning and unpalatable words. All this is said to incite public anger against the children,” he said.
The day is coming at a time street connected children are facing a number of challenges in Malawi. Some two months ago, some irate people in Blantyre set a street connected child alight, only for Malawi Police Service agents to come to his rescue.
However, the kid fled from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital premises before being treated.
Section 23 of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (2010) highlights the issue of children in need of care and protection with a specific mention of street connected children in K (I and II)
On April 2 this year, Malawi Police Service (MPS) Inspector General (IG) George Kainja conceded that street connected children were becoming a big problem that should not be underrated in Malawi.
Kainja pointed out that, once street-connected children are arrested and convicted, they are simply taken to reformatory centres such as Mpemba Boys, where security is weak and the children find themselves back on the streets sooner than later.
“What we, as Malawi Police Service, do is to do a roundup of the kids. For example, in Blantyre, they will be in our cell for [a maximum of] 48 hours because they cannot be there for long. Then, at the end of the day, we are forced to release them. Or perhaps we take them through the court system, where the only thing they [the courts] do is to refer them to Mpemba Boys, where they will only stay for one or two days and are back on the street causing big problems,” Kainja said.
He said the challenges come in as people perceive that it is a sole responsibility of the MPS to evacuate children from streets of the country.
“This is a big problem for Malawi and we need to find a solution which is holistic. The challenge is that people are looking at Malawi Police Service as not doing enough, [they think that] the IG is sleeping on his job. Of course, I am taking full responsibility of what is happening on the ground because, as IG, my role and responsibility is to make sure that Malawi is safer and secure,” he said.
Gender Ministry spokesperson Fred Simwaka said they were aware of the issue.
“It’s not easy to clean the streets just in a day. We have few safe homes and the space is limited. And, now, you also have to look at feeding them and making sure that the children are going to school. We do not have all these resources,” he said.
Simwaka said they were engaging councils in the country to formulate sub committees which would be responsible for issues to do with street connected children.