A total of 66 former street children who had been undergoing therapy at Gitagata Rehabilitation Centre in Bugesera District were on Friday reunited with their families.
Their reunion marked the official launch of the National Rehabilitation Service’s new policy to reunite children from Gitagata and all rehabilitation centers with their families.
During the official launch and parent-child reunion, Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, the State Minister in charge of Community Development and Social Affairs called upon parents to take lead in safeguarding the rights of their children and help them prepare a better future, by avoiding whatever may push them to the complicated street life.
She said, “There is no better and comfortable place for a child other than being raised in the family. Rehabilitation centres should not be anyone’s option. It would sound better if these centres are phased out, but only if parents respect their children’s rights.”
“We are happy that children were trained well and are going back to their families with fresh ambitions. We believe parents are going to respect what they signed for before taking back home the children and not let them back to streets,” she added.
Several surveys have pointed to conflict in the families as the major reason that pushes children into street life, and Mukabaramba cautioned parents who got back their children to avoid making life complicated for them.
“Parents need to reflect and find out what pushes their children to opt for a street life rather than staying with their families. We do not want to see them back neither here at the centre nor in the streets,” she said, calling for partnership with stronger responsible authorities to end the issue.
Aime Bosenibamwe, the Director General of National Rehabilitation Service (NRS), called for durable solutions for children who continue to be victims of domestic conflicts.
“We are sending children back to their families, but, surprisingly, there is still a number of them who return to the rehabilitation centre or to the streets because their families failed to solve their domestic conflicts. Parents should stay with their children because they are not destined to live a street life. It is their right to have a family,” he said
He based on the fact that among 819 children from the centre who reunited with their families since 2014, 219 of them went back to live a street life and many of them were taken to Iwawa Rehabilitation Centre because they were already over 18 years of age.
Josephine Uwajeneza, the coordinator of Gitagata Rehabilitation Centre, said parents should value the rights every child deserves and be the first to protect them instead of pushing them out to street life.
Gitagata centre is currently home to 370 former street children aged between 10 and 18 years.
But, according to Bosenibamwe, the centre also looks to soon admit girls as a new Rwf 7 billion- budget was already lined up to expand the facility’s capacity to host a further 200 children, once the girl’s wing has been completed.
Bosenibamwe revealed that the first phase of the construction, worth Rwf 451 million, will start earlier in January 2018.
Girls who will be accommodated at the rehabilitation centre will be of the same age as boys while street women will be between 18 and 35 years of age.
Among the children who passed through Gitagata Rehabilitation Center, some of them continued studies and a number of them completed university studies while others are already serving the country, especially in the security department.
Egide Cyiza, 15, who reunited with her mother from Kicukiro, expressed her joy over rejoining the family after five months in the center.
“I am happy to return home and I promise to obey my parents like never before. I now decided to be a child in the family with an ambition to continue my studies,” he said.