Solving the challenge of street children will be among the top priorities of the newly-created National Rehabilitation Service (NRS) when it starts work.
While there are no exact statistics of how many children are on streets today, various child rights activists have indicated there is an increasing number of street children in the country.
For instance, Iwawa Rehabilitation Centre, the country’s biggest rehabilitation centre, houses about 4,000 people, most of whom are children from the streets, according to officials.
“We all agree that there’s a rampant problem of street children. Therefore, establishing such an institution will ease the coordination of various activities aimed at advancing the welfare of children,” Aimé Bosenibamwe, the director-general of the new agency, said yesterday.
The officials said this during the handover of the responsibilities to the new institution at the Ministry of Local Government headquarters in Kigali yesterday.
The new institution received Rwf200 million from Government last year to implement its activities.
According to Alvera Mukabaramba, the minister of state for community development and social affairs, NRS was put in place due to the fact that there was a need to harmonise different interventions aimed at addressing issues faced by children in the country.
She said having no clear documentation of children has been due to the lack of coordination and that the new institution will fix the challenge.
For example, while Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre was under the Ministry of Youth and ICT, Gitagata Rehabilitation Centre was under the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, while some district rehab centres are under Local Government ministry, she added.
NAR has now been mandated to bring the management of all the rehabilitation centres under one roof.
Officials indicated that the primary role of the institution will be to coordinate all the activities aimed at preventing, rehabilitating and reintegrating children, as well as juvenile delinquency.
Both the current two rehabilitation centres as well as the soon-to-be constructed Nyamagabe Rehabilitation Centre will be operating under the new institution. The institution will also take over all other transit centres in the different districts.
Rosemary Mbabazi, the minister for youth, expressed optimism that the Government’s decision to set up a coordinating body will significantly accelerate the work that is being done to protect young people and prevent what drives the children to streets.
Officials said that while rehabilitation and reintegration are important aspects to any effort to address the challenges faced by children, prevention of what causes them to go to the streets is critical in ensuring the sustainability of the Government’s efforts.
“Over 90 per cent of the children we found at Gitagata were from Kigali and most of them had parents. It became clear to us that there are other challenges that these children face in their families, which we believe need more attention,” Mukabaramba said.
She said the Government has managed to document some of the causes of juvenile delinquency, and issues driving children to the streets, citing poverty in families, death of one or both parents, juvenile delinquency, irresponsible parents, among others.
“All these issues heavily affect the welfare of children, so NRC will help Government gather important data, as government devises proper means to remove all children from the streets,” Mukabaramba said.
Under the new institution, the Government also plans to upgrade Gitagata and Iwawa rehabilation centres as well as the construct another rehabilitation centre in Nyamagabe.