The street children and their problems
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A street child is a young person, under the age of fifteen, who lives and sleeps in the streets, whose family ties are broken and who can’t or won’t return home. Street children live in the streets without their families. Each child has to learn how to survive alone, since no adult takes responsibility of them. Often they are very young and completely ignored by their families. These children don’t like to be called as “street children”. They live, or rather struggle to survive, they are usually in the downtown area, near stations and shopping malls, places, which are lit up at night or in garbage dumps, in railway stations or under bridges in most major cities of developing countries around the world. To avoid being caught, street children are the last to go to sleep and the first to get up: that’s why they’re often worn out, and can be found sleeping during the day. They group together at night. Amongst children in the street, there are; children who work, children from slums, runaways and delinquents.
Other children may spend most of their time in the street, but maintain
certain link to their families. The distinction between these two categories is not always clear, but it is important. Two separate social groups definitely exist.
Some countries even deny the existence of the phenomenon, in order to minimize the problem or simply because the society is sincerely ignorant of this, hidden issue. Frightened of institutions where they are poorly treated, children don’t want to be known or recognized. However, this is an inevitable phenomenon that there are lots of children working and living in the streets and it has been a major concern for most of the countries in the world. It is an universal phenomena. In order to save these children and offer solutions, we have to begin by adressing their most desperate and urgent problems.
First of all their immediate problems, which require urgent actions, are; hunger, filth, disease, loneliness, delinquency, violence of all kind, prostitution, etc. Finding things to eat is not the main problem for the street children; they share their food among themselves. However, many children die of malnutrition, as result of poor eating habits. All street children complain constantly about filth. They have a hard time finding a place to wash their clothes. This is the reason that parasites and microbes always infect the children. Therefore, a safe and a clean place where they can wash their clothes is very important for them.
Another vital problem is the diseases, when street children get sick, who takes care of them? Where can they go for treatment? The need for treatment of the child’s psychological health is the other essential point. Loneliness is the greatest of the street children’s problems. They no longer have their parents, nor any other adult to talk to, no adult is available to talk with. Also majority of the people look down on them and children feel the indifference. We all need love, especially small children. Just a smile can be enough. The absence of love often, makes the street child vulnerable and ready for all sorts of abnormal behavior, such as theft, drug addiction and prostitution. As a result, they are dealt with as offenders.
On the other hand, they can easily come across with many people with bad intentions like, child murderers, lunatics, psychopaths, bad policemen, etc. These are all frightens children, especially at night. Then, over time, the children no longer feel fear, but become accustomed to all the surrounding violence, even the most evil ones, and eventually become indifferent to the thought of death. At this point, they may become violent or die because of a psychological illness. “Eventually these lead to victimization; sexual abuse and prostitution, substance abuse, various forms of labor exploitation. They also eventually get involved in petty crimes and end up in the juvenile justice system.”
Above all these, there are also the core problems of the street children, the most important of all is illiteracy, they should all learn how to read and write. Education is the key to everything else. Moreover, in order to be able to learn how to live like other people, the child has to be taught to recognize basic rules of good and bad behavior. Also as it was mentioned before, lack of love is the fundamental problem for them, like other children they need a family. Thus, every step should be taken to return the child to their family. If that is impossible, they should take refuge in the foster homes “foster homes which take in these children on a voluntary basis”. (Grant, 35).
Nevertheless, the most important point which should be taken into consideration is that A street child needs a refuge from the many dangers of life in the street. “They need places where they can take cover in an emergency and have someone to talk to. Clearly, the opportunity of living in such a place not only meets the child’s minimum living requirements but, in addition, allows them to get to know other children in the same situation, which is another of the child’s essential needs.” ( Smith, 18). There should be caused an awareness of the situation of street children and their need for special protection. “The principles should work hard and promote their rights and liberate them from the suffering caused by living and working in the street.” (Smith, 28).
Furthermore, as it was mentioned before education is the key word, so in order to offer some solutions for the street children, primary education will be made compulsory. And the number of children going to pre-primary school will be increased. It is important to know that education will heal most of their problems and make their future lives better. For instance, to learn a second language will be a motivating force for them. In ?anl? Urfa, a historically rich place, majority of the street children are working as tourist guides and earn their own money. In order to earn money they have learned a second language. This is an important example for motivating these homeless children. They earn their livings and in the mean time they introduce historical places to the tourists. By the way, this keeps them away from drug addiction, petty theft, crimes and etc.
Moreover, as another solution, which was suggested by UNICEF, the government can build small lodgings for these children. These lodgings are called “foster homes”. The children who are homeless should be responsible of their own lodgings. They have to organize the activities in the home. There should be basic rules in these dwellings, for instance, no stealing, no drugs and no lying. To introduce a sense of “family”, which is a crucial need for these children, each home can only accommodate a limited number of children. In this home there is an advisor among the children and a female cook who prepares food for them, act as a mother, since these children have suffered from their mother’s absence. In these homes, as in any family, the child is housed, fed and clothed. But we’re careful not to create any extra needs, and the comfort level should be at minimum. If the child makes the request, there is the possibility of learning to read and write or receiving job skills training. Schooling is fundamental. It is important to know that, the child remains there voluntarily.
If the children change their mind, they should feel free to leave the lodging. When a child needs to be punished, the children themselves organize that, too. Several homes have even created courts, with children as lawyers and the adviser as the judge. In order to reduce the chances of stealing, a small amount of pocket money should be given to the child. Fortunately, by the time they reach the age of about sixteen, young people generally want their independence. In a short time, they can find a job and begin to earn their living.
The last important factor to be mentioned is the media; they have their effect on children’s personality and psychology. Hence, in various media like radio, television programs, which are useful to children, will be broadcast with the participation of children themselves. Children’s participation in activities will be beneficial for the development of their mental and intellectual capacities and this will encourage them.
As a conclusion, while street children receive national and international public attention, that attention has been focused largely on the social, economic and health problems of the children; poverty, lack of education, AIDS, prostitution, and substance abuse. Not a lot of money is required to save children from the street, few funds are required. The most expensive projects aren’t always the most effective. It is intolerable that these children, even very young ones are living and dying in the streets.
Therefore, every single country on this planet earth should offer and apply solutions in order to make these children members of the social communities and give them shelters. The realities differ from country to country, and solutions must be adapted to particular circumstances. But above all, these are the main principles to be respected. “Today former street-children work as carpenters, drivers, welders, fishermen, mechanics, diesel-engine repairmen, upholsterers, computer technicians, some have bravely returned to work the land, and others prefer to continue their studies and are very ambitious. Some are destined to become teachers” (Baizermann, 78).
Baizermann, Tom. Homeless Children. Oxford University Press. New York. 1990.
Smith, Jane. Promise and Progress. Cambridge University Press, London, 1998.
Grant, James. Strategies for Children in the 2000. New York, N.Y, UNICEF, 1999.