On a normal sunny Wednesday in Kigali, I was walking down a road in Kimironko minding my business. Along the way, I was stopped by a little boy who mumbled some inaudible words with his hand stretched out in front of me. Cute kid, dressed in dirty little blue shorts, probably a worn-out uniform, and a tattered black t-shirt. “Wampaye ijana” (give me a hundred francs), he said, as I stooped down to hear his nervous voice. “Ijana ryo gukoresha iki?” (what do you want to use it for?) I asked. The kid said that his mother instructed him to go ‘hunt for coins’ in order to buy water (fetched from public water stations and paid for). I don’t care if the boy was lying, and today’s discussion isn’t about whether or not we should give money to beggars. If the mother truly told what I assumed was I an eight-year-old to go beg for coins, then this is a begging culture being carried on to another generation, who will probably pass it on to the next. In many countries, begging is most prevalent anywhere there are tourists. Photo/Net A beggar is a person who survives by asking for money or food. They are usually homeless. Lack of education, sympathy attraction in the case of a disability, lack of proper orientation, laziness, and poverty are all said to be factors that can lead to someone living off begging. In the case of the boy who stood before me, probably hungry and tired, it could have been a lack of guidance or proper education, perhaps neglect from his parents and or society at large. Some of the children who beg are likely to have lost their parents. So, what is society’s role in changing the course of these young lives when it is still early? I once heard that begging was preferable to stealing. Well, one’s dignity, let alone security or development, is not assured. This cannot be a future to accept for any Rwandan, even from a very underprivileged background. Here are a few suggestions on how society can curb the practice of begging: Rehabilitation: These children on our streets begging should be rehabilitated in their homes. Given the shelter, food, and comfort they deserve. Not the kind of rehabilitation that sees them enter the gates of their home, and people return to their own business, but the kind that sees them with their families, with regular checks on them, and a follow-up on their lives back home. Perhaps things are worse at home, and that’s why they are forced to be on the streets, begging. Family focus: In Kinyarwanda, it is said that if one is more merciful to a child than the mother, they want to harm him instead. Well, sometimes we should be more compassionate than parents. We should be more enthused on how they nurture, treat and educate their children, who are, by the way, society and Rwanda’s future. School: Elders often say that since young generations won’t inherit riches from their parents as was once expected, they should at least receive education. Let it be everyone’s concern, whether parents, charitable works, non-government organisations, or anybody else, to see our streets free of children who should be seated on school benches instead. Job creation: The prime reason why people beg is because of poverty and lack of income. People need help and the most vulnerable should be given priority. We do not, however, encourage one to sit around idly waiting for someone to help. We should go out there and look for ways and opportunities, and do whatever it takes, but we should not send our children to beg or be the reason they would consider it. As for giving beggars money or not, let it be one’s choice. Nevertheless, as a community, we should seek out long-term solutions to help these people, rather than giving them money or seeing them persist with these unproductive habits. How far can begging go? “In most countries, begging is most prevalent anywhere there are tourists. Another common problem is that if you give to one beggar, such a gesture will quickly attract others. The beggars can be very deceptive, even the children, most of whom are taught by adults the art of cajolery from infancy,” states an article, ‘The culture of begging’ published by Guyana Chronicle. The art of panhandling has been refined and redefined, and now it is neither homeless people nor the traditional beggars — destitute, ill-clad people with hands stretched out — that the average citizen or visitor has to contend with, but strong men and women, many of whom are young and healthy. In Mumbai in particular, visitors are often approached by a child or woman wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby. They will assist you to a nearby stall or shop that conveniently happens to sell tins or boxes of such “milk”. However, the milk will be expensively priced (often around 200 rupees) and if you hand over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar will simply split the proceeds between them. Beggars also rent babies from their mothers each day, to give their begging more credibility. Most governments have some provision for their destitute citizens; but many persons prefer not to work, because begging has become a profession all its own. This has given rise to an abominably inhuman practice – crippling children to make them authentic beggars; and the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” has replicated a real scenario in which children are deliberately blinded to make them beggars. “A beggar, no matter how full his bowl is, can never claim freedom until he makes his wealth through productive means.” To this can be added that although there is occasional justifiable need of some people to seek help, many times persons refuse to learn to fish, and prefer instead to acquire the fish without effort, the aforementioned article adds.