The government has on several occasions tried to rehabilitate and resettle street children. The children however, quite often return to the street. This requires addressing issues that drive children out of homes.
Karongi district, like Kigali City is one of the areas grappling with the problem of street kids. There are many challenges the district and the government for that matter, have to contend with to find a lasting solution to the problem of street children. After the children getting used to street life, they perceive home as more of confinement and torture centre.
Recently, the sector leaders approached children but scores among them were negative about resettling them with their guardians. Mudahushwa a eleven year old boy, vows never to return home to live with his step mother.
“Does she beat you up?” the officials asked, to which the child answered in the affirmative.
According to the little boy, whose father died 3 years ago, the step mother sold the property he had inherited from his father, the reason he turned to the streets.
“I had to make sure I leave her place so that I would go back and steal from her whenever I get chance,” the boy explained. He added that whenever he stole from the elderly woman, he would feel relieved that he was recovering some of his inheritance.
Harerimana a 17-yearold boy, who has been on the streets since he was 12 said, “You see Kibuye people have given us whenever we beg, and then what else are we lacking if we get food.”
As pointed out earlier, another boy called Musoni Matiya believes sending him home is tantamount to hatred and torture.
“I would rather be kept in jail than go home to meet my cruel step dad,” he said.
Having gotten used to sleeping out in the cold, not washing, drug abuse and so many other habits, scores of the street kids in Kibuye think it’s the best life experience and they are free from the nagging hand of their parents and guardians.
“I wonder what these kids really want, last year I adopted ‘Demobe’ because I felt pity for his young age and appearance but after one month he was back to the streets,” said one woman called Mukakigeri.
Mukakigeri says she did all what was in her capacity to keep Demobe at home including serving him special dishes different from her kids, time to play but it was all in vain. Talking to The New Times, Demobe, says all was good at home but he missed money.
“I felt I should at least have Frw100 in my pockets which I couldn’t get,” he said. This is the excuse that many of the street kids give.
“If a child is exposed to money at a very tender age, they will feel empty without it,” said an elderly lady whose kid reportedly fled home to the street.
When the EAR Church organizes meetings and prayers with the street kids, many of them go there in the hope that they would be paid for their presence. And the issue of drugs has greatly deterred children from returning home.
“Yes we started taking drugs because of the poor ways of survival we were encountering but we got addicted,” said Musoni. The boy says is afraid of staying at home because no family can ever allow him to live such life.
It is apparent therefore, that domestic violence due to hostile parents or guardians drives children out of homes and fear of meeting the same people the children perceive as their enemies will always frustrate resettlement efforts.
“My real father used to beat me up on a daily basis on the orders of my step mothers,” another child who gave his name as Gaspard, from Burunga said. He says many kids in his neighborhood had been subjected to routine beatings a reason as to why they fled to the streets.
With such challenges, government officials need to integrate in their policies, mechanisms of counseling parents and guardians how to treat children. This does not mean that errant children should not be disciplined, but the kind of punishment should be in acceptable proportions.
Otherwise such family issues may frustrate the efforts of resettling the street kids. In the rehabilitation centres, the children should be counseled to appreciate living in families.