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Street children still terrorising cities

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Despite persistent announcements that government will remove all streets kids, the youngsters are slowly becoming a terror to the society, Malawi News can tell.

Blantyre police has confirmed that last week five street children were arrested on the same.

It has been observed that most of the street children unleashing terror on citizens are aged seven to 15.

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We can confirm that the street kids have formed gangs that attack people. The groups, that comprise boys and girls, use dangerous weapons like knives and sticks.

Angelina, a Chilobwe resident, still lives in fear. She narrated her ordeal after she was attacked by the street kids.

“They beat me up and threatened to stab me if I couldn’t cooperate with their instructions to surrender my hand bag. I gave it to them and they all ran away,” she said.

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As if that is not enough, reports indicate that the kids also insult people and terrorise hair dressing saloons in the central business district of Blantyre.

Malawi News has also established that some parents and guardians living in squatter townships of Mbayani, Ndirande, Chilobwe and Makhetha encourage their children to beg in the streets.

Some children we spoke with said they do not see anything wrong in begging because they get money, enough to buy their needs.

“Sometimes I go to school sometimes I don’t. I come here to beg with my friends. We walk from Makhetha to here (Ginnery corner). We use part of the money raised from begging to pay for our mini bus fares when going back home,” said an eight-year old girl.

She said she usually goes back home late in the night but does not fear anything as they always move in groups.

Blantyre Police deputy spokesperson, Andrew Mayawo, said at least five street kids have been arrested so far.

“At first we heard this as a rumour but after investigations we established that these children are indeed involved in the malpractices. This led to the arrest of five male street children last week,” he said.

Mayawo said some of the children who were arrested are now at Mpemba Reformatory Centre because they could not be detained at a police station by virtue of being minors.

Results of survey conducted by Chisomo Children’s Club in 2014 reveals that there are over 5,000 street children in Blantyre and Lilongwe.

It says most children are living with their families, and some are being sent by their parents to the streets to beg.

The report points out that 87 and 82 percent of the children come from their homes in Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively.

Government has been saying it will remove street children but nothing has been done so far.

Director of Programmes at Chisomo Children’s Club, Clement Silungwe, said government’s intention to take out children from the streets is not practical as the country does not have shelter to accommodate them.

“This can’t be done overnight and government can’t do it alone. If the police are to sweep out all street children, where are they going to keep them? Children can’t be kept in police cells or prisons (because that is illegal),” he observed.

Silungwe said his office is willing to work with government and interested stakeholders to deal with the problem but their efforts are frustrated by some organisations who seem to encourage the children to be on the streets by giving them food and clothes.

Former Child Justice Court Magistrate, Esmie Tembenu, said the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (CCPJA) provides care to children in need of protection and rehabilitation.

It provides for the establishment of reformatory centres for children that break the law as well as foster homes for victimised children.

Tembenu, however, clarified that it was wrong to commit a child who is on the street as a victim to a reformatory centre because these centres are meant for delinquencies.

She said Malawians must be aware that some of the children on the street are victims of domestic violence, child trafficking or property grabbing among others.

Director of child affairs in the ministry of gender, children, disability, and social welfare, Mcknight Kalanda, admitted at a stakeholders’ meeting on street children held in Lilongwe this week that government has a responsibility to solve the problems emanating from the street children.

“We initially tried to take the children out of the streets but the children were back on the streets after a short time. It seems we did not meet their needs,” he said.

Kalanda, however, admitted that government still needs help from other stakeholders to remove the children from the streets.

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