Much as there are various factors contributing to the interference of children’s progress in the Third World countries, the common ones include: war, HIV/Aids, poverty, abuse of children’s rights, traditional norms and beliefs. According to reports from the Washington Post of the cycle of war in African countries HIV, and poverty are the main ones.
The report continues to state that “Civil war in African nations, including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has helped HIV “flourish” through “widespread rape, displacement of hundreds of thousands of adults and children with little or no access to health.
In countries where “war has been more common than peace” over the last several decades— including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Congo, HIV prevalence has “ballooned,” the same report adds.
However, Rwandan children too, have not been spared from these problems. According to a mini survey conducted by The New Times, in regard to this issue, only from the heart of Kigali City to Nyamirabo, an outskirt of Kigali city, several street children were found, meaning that there are many more roaming around the country.
Samuel Sibomana, 15, is a former street kid, but he recently left the street due to poor conditions. He got a safe job working as a turn-boy, at the Kimironko market. He shyly talks about his experience on street.
“I joined the street when I was 11-years old, but there was nothing good I learnt from there, apart from the abusive language and all sorts of bad manners.”
Alice Nyaranongi, 45, is HIV positive and single parent of six. She sits quietly in her mud-covered house, imagining the future of her children, especially in such situations when she considers herself more dead than alive.
“I don’t think my children will ever have a bright future,” said Nyaranongi, absent-mindedly waving away the flies that clustered around her three year-old sickly son’s face.
“I’m sick and could die at anytime!” she adds miserably.
Yet through this worrying situation, her optimism was touching as she declares that “Maybe, you never know God may pave a way for them. If they don’t die soon, they might be ok some day.”
Children being vulnerable and marginalised, have had the lion’s share of violence especially in situations of conflict. Countless children, mostly under the age of 14, leave their families in search of survival elsewhere in the country or across the border.
Some depart “voluntarily” or when their parents urge them to escape the severe poverty of their home areas. However, the increasing awareness of children’s rights and freedoms is a symbol of hope that the African child may in the near future enjoy as a fundamental right.
To this effect, African governments including Rwanda and Children’s Rights Activists, like the Liberian activist Kimmie have joined efforts to salvage the African child from all the negative forces which limit them from living a meaningful life.
The Rwandan government is working closely with different NGOs in charge of Children’s Rights. Subsequently the Minister of Public Service and Labour (MIFOTRA) last year embarked on a national field tour to assess the child labour situation throughout the country.
A report from MIFOTRA, late last year revealed that since the end of the transitional period in 2000, the government enforced efforts to protect children’s rights through policy and legislation, specific interventions to reduce poverty and social vulnerability, and widening opportunities for education.
The Ministry also collaborated with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia together (KURET), in a four year project to combat child labour.
This project, which runs from September 2004 to August 2008, provided educational alternatives to children, particularly those with HIV/Aids, and those exposed to exploitive child labour practices within the four East African countries.
In Rwanda, KURET operated in 10 districts, which included: Gicumbi, Nyaruguru, Gastibo, Nyamagabe, Bugesera, and Rulindo, through communications, evaluation, and research.