The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Dr Diane Gashumba, has urged parents and local leaders to work collectively in ensuring children are appropriately brought up, and to mitigate disputes in families, which, according to her, will curtail the problem of having street children.
The minister was speaking at a consultative meeting on the issue of street children in Kigali that brought together parents and City of Kigali leadership.
During the meeting, parents from different parts of the city whose children were taken from streets and reintegrated in their families pledged to do anything that can lead their children to return to normal life.
Domestic wrangles have been cited as the biggest cause for street children.
“Much as parents may have misunderstandings between them, there is no reason for this to be transferred to their children. Children are saints in the family. You should, therefore, deal with your differences and not transfer the burden to the children,” she said.
“Local leaders, the National Women Council and family counselors should also conduct routine visits to households to ensure harmony prevails.”
During the presentation of an overview of the issue of street children in the city, Judith Kazayire, the City vice-mayor in charge of social affairs, said that it was shameful the problem still persists but stressed that efforts are on to ensure that children are taken off the streets.
She said, last month, Gitagata Children Rehabilitation Centre had 42 children from Nyarugenge District, five from Kicukiro District and 53 from Gasabo District.
“We are not proud to say that we have collected these students in rehabilitation centres; as community servants we need to address this issue through different measures like sensitising parents about raising children in families and using parents forums, among others,” Kazayire said.
She dismissed concerns of people who cite financial constraints among causes of street children saying that all children from poor households do not end up on the street.
Halima Umutesi, whose child was formerly on the street, said that her son was driven to the street by poverty that prevailed in her family.
She said after her husband's death, she struggled to fend for the family as a hawker but still did not make enough to feed them.
“In all these struggles, instead of going to school, he would hang around with a gang of other boys until police picked him and took him to the rehabilitation centre,” Umutesi said.
She urged parents to talk to their children and show them love as the only way that will guide children into proper attitudes.
In performance contracts (Imihigo) signed by parents, they pledged to protect children's rights in the family.