Despite high public awareness and concerted efforts by the government and civil society, the number of street children has over the years continued to rise steadily in Dar es Salaam and other major urban centres such as Mwanza, Arusha and Mbeya.
A wide and complicated range of factors behind the phenomenon has made this a particularly tough problem to deal with. The number of young children living rough in the streets increased sharply with the advent of HIV/Aids in the early 1980s.
Minors were losing their parents and guardians to Aids in alarming numbers in the early years of the scourge and, in the absence of specific caregivers, they made the streets their home. Also, civil society back then was not as developed and widespread as is currently the case.
We have reason, however, to be optimistic that the number of minors who find themselves in the streets as a result of Aids will fall substantially in the next few years, courtesy of the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs that are provided free of charge to those who need them.
Parents can also ensure that they take care of their children to maturity by avoiding risky behaviour that could consign them to an early grave. Indeed, parents have to avoid contracting HIV not only for their own sake but also that of their children.
But HIV/Aids is not solely to blame for the street children problem. There are also factors such as broken families and children being abandoned by one or both parents. Children in such circumstances are more likely to find themselves in the streets than those being cared for by both parents who are living together.
This is a problem we can eventually overcome if we have the determination and right strategies.
Improve teachers’ welfare
Teaching is an important activity on which the foundation of any nation and society is established. It is regarded as the oldest and noblest service to society.
However, the profession faces a myriad of challenges, especially in developing countries.
Last week, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) showed 15 teachers the door over absenteeism in Dodoma.
We applaud the TSC for taking action, although it came late. Failure to show up at their workplaces for up 500 days deserves no mercy.
Our children have been denied their right of learning and it may have a bearing on how they perform in their final examinations. Nonetheless, the TSC’s action should go beyond Dodoma because the problem exists in all regions.
Even so, blaming the teachers for absenteeism should be considerate of many factors.
We do not condone absenteeism, but our teachers are underpaid and perform their duties in tough environments, which force some to shift their focus on activities that supplement their incomes.
Instead of being motivated for what they go through, they are always blamed and sometimes insulted by politicians.
Our teachers need motivation. They need better salaries, good houses and improved teaching conditions.
Threatening them constantly will not help them deliver.
To curb absenteeism, the government should consider improving teachers’ welfare.