Children living on the streets are still children. They have the same rights and deserve the same opportunities as any other children though they lack love and support.
Following this, the government in collaboration with Railway Children Africa and stakeholders have teamed up to help children and possibly reunite children living in the streets with their families.
Railway Children Africa, country director, Mr Mussa Mgata said by working with the government they did a headcount survey in six major cities namely Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Iringa, Mbeya and Mwanza where it was discovered there are over 10,500 children living and working on the streets.
According to Mgata, for the past one year they invested their time urging street children to consider going back home as most of them were exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation.
“Though, there was a time when our efforts to reunite children with their respective families seemed futile but we managed to return 600 children…Many of the children and youth believed returning home was not an option instead they preferred for other solutions,” says Mgata.
Emmanuel Amon,* 22, shares the kind of life he lived in the streets when he was only 9 years old. Emmanuel left his home in rural Geita and migrated to Mwanza City. He was convinced that life would be easier in the streets as he believed that he would soon be free from the chains of extreme poverty.
But to his regret, life in Mwanza turned out to be much more difficult than back home. He had to sleep in trenches and graveyards without anything to cover himself with. However, going back home was something he did not want to do. He would rather endure the extremely harsh conditions of street life.
Sleeping on an empty stomach, violence and physical harassment at the hands of the security officers, older boys and other members of the community was the order of the day.
Through the Railway Children Africa project he was given an opportunity to enroll for vocational courses, Emmanuel was supported to pursue a one year certificate course in computer and mobile phone applications.
As luck would have it, Emmanuel secured a job at a mobile phone company soon after completing his training. He now earns a monthly salary which has greatly transformed his life.
“I’m now happily married and able to support my family with the income I get from my job,” he said.
A 12-year-old boy, Issa Mussa*, is one of the children that has recently been reunited with his family.
Issa said street life was full of fear, violence and exploitation. Homeless and with no one to turn to, he was exposed to all sorts of danger.
“I spent most of my time at the waste dump sites collecting plastic bottles and other recyclable materials, which I sold to get money for food,” he said.
* Names have been changed.