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Monday, April 27, 2015

Street kids in need of care

Street kids in need of care

= Hnin Thet =

The problem does not seem serious here, but it still needs to be dealt with for it is concerned with the children who will shape the future of the country.

You can see scruffy children in tattered clothes at bus stops, roadside tea shops or eateries or train stations in the commercial capital Yangon, begging for pennies. Some of them may be as young as five while many are around ten. Some people would give them money without second thought at their request, but does it help?

Abandoned or compelled by genuine financial hardship of their families, children have come out onto streets in search of something for survival and become street kids. While some resort to begging, most of them eke out a living, scavenging through municipal dump sites and dumps piled behind shops and factories, to find something or anything to sell for money.

The negative view of street children is that they are public nuisance and risk to security of general public. This view is usually held by governments and although some governments have carried 

out programs to deal with street children, the general solution still includes sending them to orphanages, juvenile homes and correctional institutions and the objective of this is to help keep them away from a life of crime.

The positive thing is that street kids who have a home are secondary earners of their families. Though the money they did out of the dump may be very small amount, still it is a big contribution to their families who usually are internal migrants and lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

On the fringes of the society, street children are largely excluded from government provided education and social safety net. Although the government has put compulsory primary education in place, poor parents cannot afford to send their children to school because doing so would mean a serious blow to their income needed to sustain their lives.

Illiteracy coupled with bad influences on the streets, street kids are often swayed to live a life of crime while the younger ones are particularly vulnerable to abuse. In some cases, homeless and/or abandoned children are fostered and exploited by the minder, who himself has grown on the streets, though such cases are rare here.

Again, left unattended by their parents, street kids tend to marry young, which often leads to early and unplanned pregnancy. This creates a vicious circle, worsening ever. 

Meanwhile, there have been reported cases of missing children on media and social network. Fortunately, the fact that child beggars here have complete body parts indicates that the country does not have gangs that kidnap children and force them to be beggars.

Giving them a few pennies may help alleviate some suffering for a day in the life of a street kid, but what about when those pennies are spent? Again, people view child beggars as part of organized groups, headed by criminals and thus face a moral dilemma over whether to give some money to them for fear that it would indirectly encourage those driving child-begging business. 

Here is the answer. Just give them foods, but not the coins so that they will not be exploited. 

While the act of sharing makes the world beautiful, it is not the real solution to the problem. These destitute kids deserve a long-term solution that tackles the root-cause of the problem.


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