“ The incidence of street children in Sierra Leone is alarming as the number of street kids and child guides are on the increase thereby causing serious embarassment to the nation” this was said by the acting Executive Secretary of the National Commission for War Affected Children NaCWAC Alhaji Mohamed Kanneh.
As a matter of swift action to reverse the high incidence of street children, he said they have mapped out a number of strategies including dialogue with Freetown City Council and local Councils in Bo, Bombali and Koidu New Sebehun backed by awareness raising to sensitize people on the dangers of street life.
He said they have already done a pilot project with the Freetown City Council in which they were able to identify some 50 street children in Freetown and within 2 weeks they were able to trace their parents and successfully reunite them with their families in Freetown.
He stated that they had initial meeting with child guides and their disable parents with the object of removing the kids off the street, noting that the have so far made available some learning and teaching materials to 25 child guides to ascertain their schooling.
He said they have been monitoring most of their activities to ensure its sustainability. Contrary to wide spread speculations that most of the street kids and child guides do not go school , he said they do go to school, explaining that those child guides in the afternoon shift accompany their disable parents to the street in the morning hours and help them beg for some hours before leaving for school, but those in the morning shift only drop their parents in the morning hours to join them when schools are over.
He therefore attributed the alarming situation street children to poverty as he put he has never seen a child of a rich man beg for his living in the street.
According to what he referred to as a child protection guide lines to be used by principalities ,the use of children below the ages of 13 years of age as full time itinerant street hawkers would be punished as stipulated by bi-laws of the local councils , because using them for child labour will expose them to them to sexual abuse, accidents, disruption of education, delinquency, health hazard , teenage and unwanted pregnancies.
Maltreatment meted out to children by their guardians and parents which force the children to street is also considered a crime punishable by law. Also the act of child trafficking, refusal to send children to school, encouraging under age girls to fend for themselves and other crimes is a crime.
By Solomon Rogers