It was exactly 2:30 am on Thursday when Awoko met some kids at the PZ area playing what is referred to in local parlance as ‘Koko’: using coins by spinning them on a card board placed on the ground.
These kids are from 12 to 15 years who have taken the streets as their new homes.
The war created an effect on these children as some were abandoned by their parents whilst some of their parents were killed, thus leaving them to fend for themselves.
But the war has ended long ago despite the numerous interim centres for children, their number continues to increase daily. They are the pawns used by the older ones to commit petty crimes in the streets.
These children do not have the love extended by parents to their children nor do they have that opportunity of going to school. Like 14-year-old Mohamed Bangura, who is from Magburuka, said he was maltreated by his stepmother.
He said when he came to Freetown he took to the streets doing odd jobs and involving in petty crimes. “I am stranded here, I sleep in the cold and sometimes if I do not tote to get some money, I involve in stealing for which I am at times mercilessly beaten.”
Mohamed said his mother stayed in Freetown but did not know where she stayed as he said he wanted to leave the streets for school.
Ibrahim S. Kargbo, 13, said despite having parents he went to the streets to fend not only for himself but for his parents whom he described as very poor. “If I do not steal for the day or do minor jobs or gamble, it is difficult for me to survive,” he revealed.
Alpha Sesay, 15, said he left school because his parents could not afford to pay his fees and that that was why he took to the streets.
The youngest of them all was 13-year-old Abibu Bangura who said he was once going to school but because there was nobody to pay his fees so he went to the streets to learn a trade. A trade he could not name.
All these children complained that they did the dirty works in the streets for the older ones as they were sent to either pick pocket or steal people’s goods. “When we run out of luck at times and we are caught, the older boys will come and help in beating us. Also when luck follows us the big boys take the money from us,” he said.
The National Commission for War Affected Children (NACWAC) was formed in 2002 not only to take care of children’s affected by the war, but those in the street also.