Street Children Can Be Settled.
Not all street children are orphans. Not all of them are unable to study or to work. Not all of them wish to stay and die in the same condition. Many of them are just ignored by their parents and the society. They are considered to be the unwanted and ugly part of the society. Nobody ever loves street children.
We ignore them, we despise them and we consider them as the nuisance and the bother to the civilized and well-settled society. We always think of them to be uncivilized, naughty, and not trust-worthy and manner-less people.
We hardly tolerate their presence. We are reluctant to sympathize with them and rarely extend the helping hand or any kind gestures towards them. We give them something at times to get rid of their presence or to please our inner consciousness. By doing so we satisfy ourselves to be generous and kind hearted. But we have no serious concern about their lives and future, from the bottom of our heart. We very well understand that our offering them few coins or the rejected clothes or some extra or wastage eatables would not help them for long but still we think and boast ourselves of helping them a lot. We never look at such people as Human beings who are really in need of our help to settle them and not only to sympathize with them or hating them.
We have picture of troublesome people when we see the street children around us. We think they are either thieves or troublemakers and they don’t need our attention or they don’t deserve any sympathy from us. Perhaps we think that we are not responsible for them at all. We very firmly try to believe that they are so because of their destiny or the destiny of their parents. We take it granted that they are paying for their past evil deeds.
We just throw a piece of bread or a coin towards them and wish them to go away from our site forever. At all events we nourish the negative attitudes towards them. We try to keep our children far from them as if they are some infectious elements and will pollute our children. A mere appearance of the street children to our sight at any event, the very negative thoughts try to bubble in our minds and we hate their presence for long.
Sometimes we give such a street child a coin and insult him or despise him as if we are feeding him from that coin of half-rupee or so. When we give some of such child a note of five or ten rupees we think as if we have given him the bread of the life time and we also don’t hesitate to give him a lecture to work and earn instead of begging and stealing. We talk as if we are his true well wishers and he should do what we advise him to do.
And if by our mere curiosity, if at all we have given him the note of rupees one hundred, we think as if we have upgraded his status and very well advise him never to beg or to roam around the street anymore as if we have given him the funds to do a certain business for his survival or we think as if we have given him enough to suffice him for life time.
We very much wish someone to come forward and offer such children some job to do either at home or in the factory so that they could survive well. But we never start the thinking by offering them the job at our own home or the factory where we have the need of a person. We firmly believe that such street children could never make good and honest servants.
So we never offer them a job or try to find one for their possible survival. We never think of giving them a shelter or arrange for one where they could sleep and cook. We hardly think of their education. May be we are generous enough to give them the rejected clothes of our children and act as if we are maintaining them and doing so well to them.
We are always rough and tough towards the street children and never go in the details of their every day life. We hardly know about their every day survival and what difficulties they face to get a bread every day. We never think of their clothes and their shelters. We never bother to know their plight during the very cold season when we need a heater and the number of blankets. We are unaware of how they survive in the heavy rains, storms and floods without their homes. We really never try to know how would be their survival during emergencies, wars and riots. Do we really care what happens to them during heavy cyclones and earthquakes?
We care more for the domestic animals during those tense periods and we care abundantly for the cattle during the draughts but have we ever thought or planned for the children who are nearly 300 days in the year under the draught condition?
Do we really have time to know their requirements of the day and do we ever care for their recreation related to their childhood? We never consider or think them as young, unmatured, not loved and parent-less children. We always treat them as the unwanted and burdensome part of our daily life and we never wish them to stay around us. We just sympathize with them as orphans but hate them as citizens.
Now what do you expect from such helpless children who have no shelter, no means of daily bread and no source of their wardrobes? What type of behavior and manners you expect from the children who have never stayed in the family, who have nobody to guide them and who have no schooling? Really, what can be expected from such wayward children who have never known the “LOVE OR THE AFFECTION” which they were supposed to get from their parents and kins?
We all agree that love is the food of life and even the brutes or the wild animals can be trained and controlled with love. But where is that LOVE for these poor ignored children? How many of them have ever had a drop of love in their lives? Have we ever tried to give a drop of love to them from our ocean of love, which we store for our children? Have we ever tried to have a sweet hour with them or ever used sweet words for them? Have we ever addressed them with the good and sweet words and tried to know their condition as such? Have we ever risked giving them food in the steel plate or a good plastic dish and served them with the fresh food on the good place to sit? Have we ever given them the fresh drinking water from the freeze in the good glass? NO…NO…NO. How many NOS?
Street children do not emerge from anywhere. They are brought in this world by their mothers, mostly the unmarried mothers or very poor mothers. The poor prostitutes or the prostitutes, who only need girls and no boys, leave them in the street at the mercy of the people and destiny. Some of the maids or the Ayas or even the poor workers leave their children in the streets when they go for work to the mercy of the public and expect the children to fill their stomach before they come back from their work. Some of such parents ignore their children and the children stay without food and they roam about in the streets to look for food to the unlimited destination.
After all we all understand how difficult it is for the small children with the hungry stomach to discipline themselves? If the poor child were very hungry he would do everything to fulfil his hunger including begging and stealing. Does a child of the careless and wayward mother know what is good and what is bad? Does he in real sense know what is bad in begging or stealing? Who is there to teach him all those goods and bads?
If such children get the food to eat when they are hungry, surely they would never beg for it and steal for it? When they are grown up in the streets they never understand that they are nuisances to the civilized society. How could they realize it as they do it for their necessity and if at all they were shown the other good ways to get their daily bread they would never try to be nuisance to the society. It is not their wish to be so but it is their necessity, which makes them so.
If they were born of good parents who would look after their food, shelter, clothing and schooling, surely they would never be on streets or they would never like to beg or steal.
My experience with street children for several years in KENYA as the NGO representative, I have come to know that if out of those 100 children if all were given their necessity on time, 90 of them could not have been on the street. If ten were educated that what they were doing was not good for them and the people around who are not their enemies but friends and sympathizers, nearly 6 of them could have come to the alternative shown to them to fill their empty stomachs. The rest 4 settled in rehabilitation center or the children home could not be very difficult to maintain and train them to be normal citizens.
During my involvement as the representative of ILO based in GENEVA, in Kenya, I had the target of settling nearly 1280 street children from NAKURU, ELDORET, Nyahururu, Nyeri and KISUMU within three years and applying all the good tactics and with the sincere co-operation from the honest and hard working white volunteers and local social workers, I was able to settle nearly 1040 in good order in several homes.
Later on I was given the most difficult area of NAIROBI where in one city nearly 3260 or more children loitered in the streets. The main challenge was to settle the very young girls who had developed the bad habit of prostitution as by going with one customer only for an hour their full day bread and the requirements were fulfilled. Even after giving them all good facilities to stay with good food, good clothes and good education, they jumped the wall of the home and shirked away at night to look for their pocket expenses from the known areas. Even after giving them the pocket money of their requirements 50% of the girls still escaped at night to have sexual fun with grown up men. Unfortunately the project of street girls sponsored by ILO came to standstill and ultimately failed.
There are some schoolgirls or the college girls who after giving the birth of a child at some hidden place, leave the children in the orphanage and never bother about their stay afterwards. Some of such children run away from the orphanage due to the tortures from the person in charge and roam in the streets and eat what they get, sleep any place they find on the foot-path or in the gutters or in open.
Some of the street children have their homes, parents and kins also. They go to sleep at their wish but most of the times they loiter in the streets and look for their bread and sleep with other such children.
Street children are mostly in groups and they have their leader. They roam under his umbrella and do many evil things under his instructions. They snatch the purses or bags from the women on the street for a day’s bread only. They snatch chains and wrist watches just for a soft drink or good breakfast. They break the screen or doors of the car and steal the bag or other goods from within worth thousands only for a first class lunch in the hotel or for a film ticket. They even dare to break the houses and steal expensive items just for the rewards of new clothes.
The leaders or the godfathers of such street children earn lot of money by misusing them only by providing them with shelter and food. They also take part in the supply of BHANG and Charas at the places directed. They also assist the smugglers in passing their goods worth millions just for the note of 100.
Most of the street children in the cities like Bombay have their godfathers and they work according to their instructions. They are also trained as beggars, thieves, burglars and pick picketers. There are very rare occasions where the children get some good god fathers who train the street children and help them to get bread from selling news papers, cleaning cars, carrying luggages and as hawkers.
Street children are very common in the public places such as super-markets, restaurants, hotels, railway stations, bus-stands, cinema halls, temples and public gardens. They steal, beg and even work for their daily bread. If asked or insisted, they will surely do a job for you. They can take care of your vehicle in the not very safe parking, can carry a resonabally heavy load for you on a small agreed amount, and can also help you to change the tyre. They can clean your cars at your place or at the washing areas run by such parking boys. They can water your garden and even do other simple gardening work also. They can as well clean the streets, fill in the potholes on the road if they are given the tools and materials. Some of the street children can clean your window glasses; they can wash the dishes in the functions and even wash your clothes. They can be good boot polish shoe shiners and the same time can be your informers. They can as well work as messengers and can very comfortably take your bill or the letter to the nearby place. Some very cute ones can work as your spies.
Street children can as well sell sweets and buiscuits and even run small cabins. They can very well sell fruits in the public places. They can work as tea servers and even as office boys.
Child labor in India is at large and in a way it saves so many wayward children going for nasty works or stealing. Child labor although not entertained by the social organizations, it is a blessing to the needy parents and the children themselves who otherwise would go for nuisance and out of track. Although child labor is prohibited, it is very difficult to remove all these children from work and convince them to join schools.
Not all children would like schooling at the period and all the parents can not afford that as some of the poor and destitude families entirely depend upon such children. Unless some concrete arrangements to feed such handicapped parents who entirely rely upon their children are done, it is very difficult to remove children from the place of their earning. Not all the Government projects are working in good order. It is not wise to talk of removing such destitute children from the street when the government or we as the society are not yet ready to fulfil their requirements.
CHILD LABOR is not a nuisance to the society but street children and beggars are the nuisances to the society. So the first priority should be given to the orphans and loitering children who are the true nuisance to the society. Prohibition of Child Labor should be taken over when all the street children are removed from the streets and settled and all the parents of the children who are engaged in child labor are settled to survive themselves. Otherwise we might be facing more problems by removing the child from the place of work and pushing him on the street.
While arrangements are done to take care of the helpless parents, the children should be settled in rehabilitation centers and well looked after.
There are so many cases of such children not looked after properly, going back to the streets or their homes and joining their previous profession. Street children are very difficult to settle. It becomes full-fledged work for the Ngo volunteer or the social worker to look after such children to get used to the new atmosphere. Giving them food, clothes and shelter sometimes is not enough. They need the atmosphere and it is the task of such workers to create that type of atmosphere, which in all circumstances should be friendly. They would never like to be obeyed in the beginning. They may even not respond to the polite and loving approach. They may even ignore to put on new dresses and may show very little or no interest in learning, reading and writing.
There are some who have been to schools and know how to read and write. There are run away children from home and from the schools. Some children would even defy staying clean. They would deny to take bath and to use soap on the body. They would even hesitate to wash their clothes and are happy in dirty clothes. They speak vulgar language and always use abusive words for the higher-class people that are not good at all.
But all this depends upon the area and the atmosphere; the street children come from. Not all are naughty or harsh. Not all are disobedient. Not all of them ignore the facilities provided to them and not all try to escape from the center. Many of them would try to adjust themselves in the new atmosphere and endeavor to be good citizens by giving proper attention in schooling and discipline.
There are living cases of the street children, who were once the troublemakers and the thieves have turned out to be the social and honest citizens and are in good post to day. There are some trained street children now working as the Social Workers.
Street children if taken proper care can be good citizens and the leaders of tomorrow who will surely take keen part to rehabilitate the other street children of the day.
We should come in forefront to accept the ignored street children and take responsibility to settle them to a good future. We should change our negative and harsh attitudes towards them and take them as our unfortunate and poor members of the society and extend the helping hand to enable them to lead a normal and peaceful life.
By doing so we have helped the society, the area and the nation as a whole. IT IS TOTALLY HUMAN TO DO SO. PLEASE DO IT FROM THE IMMEDIATE EFFECT…PLEASE DO?
© H. V. Kerai