By DAMA KALAMA
Children rights defenders have raised an alarm over the rising number of street children neglected in urban areas during this Covid-19 period.
According to Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund (SFRTF) chair Linah Jebii Kilimo now blames parents for abdicating their parental responsibilities to put the lives of hundreds of children in oblivion.
Kilimo who also doubles as the Chief Administrative secretary for ministry of Agriculture attributed the rise of street children to poverty, family feuds and breakdown, siring out of wedlock and parental rejection.
INCREASED STREET FAMILIES
Addressing the Onesmus Good News Boys Centre, an institution in Kikambala, Kilifi County for the rehabilitation of street children, Kilimo said lack of reconciliation and forgiveness skills in parents is among the greatest contributors to increased street families in the country.
“There is a lot that needs to be done to invest in the emotions of people in the social environment,” said Kilimo on Sunday (August 23).
The government official adds that there is need for reconciliation and forgiveness to be done within the village level before the children ‘bolt out’ to fend for themselves.
“I’m sure we know which families always have squabbles and which families have children who sleep hungry all the time. Can these situations be arrested before they get out of hand?” the CAS said.
She called on Nyumba Kumi ambassadors, chiefs, assistant chiefs and village elders to be conscious of what is happening in the social environment of wananchi so as to stop young children from escaping their family set-up to try and find solace in the streets.
“Let us go back to the African virtues of caring for one another,” Kilimo appealed.
Onesmus Good News Boys Centre director Reverend Joseph Munyasya said street children are usually stigmatized but they are normal children who may go astray without guidance but who may also be guided and be successful people in society.
“I have graduates and other people now working yet they were in the streets before. It is only that someone showed them the love that they missed at their homes,” said Munyasya.
The reverend said it is important for parents to be close to their children in order to better understand them.
He said for the street connected people to reintegrate into their original families, there must be forgiveness and reconciliation from both parties.
SFRTF CEO Caroline Towett said since the onset of Covid-19 in Kenya, the fund has been able to oversee the rehabilitation and reintegration of more than 1,400 former street children back into their families and society across the country.
The government, in 2019, while abolishing adoption of children, came up with a protection policy saying every child should grow up in a family set-up.
This saw the government start a mop up exercise of all street connected people at the onset of Covid-19 in the country.
“It has been a process but the biggest mop up was in April,” said Towett.
The SFRTF said Onesmus Good News Boys Centre has the best model of rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and re-socializing of the street children for the last six months.
The center has been able to trace parents of about 70 children mopped from Mombasa County, to as far as Western region, Nyanza and North Rift regions from where the children escaped different environments at home.
“I am happy to announce that this can be modeled everywhere in the Charitable Children’s Institutions across the country,” said Kilimo.
Mombasa county children coordinator Philip Nzenge’s office has been working with SFRTF to ensure the street families in Maboksini in Mombasa.
He was able to talk to and convince 52 street people at Maboksini to leave the place and join Onesmus.
“Most of them have adjusted their lives and are on track to be reunited with their families,” said Nzenge calling on parents not to give up on their responsibilities.
He said at Maboksini there are children from as far as Kisumu, Homa Bay, Eldoret, Kakamega, among other areas in the country.
Edited by Mwakera Mwajefa