The fu­ture for street chil­dren

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Wai Wai Hnin

Most peo­ple turn their heads away as they pass by, hop­ing not to reg­is­ter the sight of the four or five-year-old kids play­ing hap­pily in the stink­ing squalor of the rubbish tip of thrown away fruit.

It is the fruit whole­sale mar­ket near Ky­imyin­dine jetty and the fruit can be seen on sale in ram­shackle and de­crepit houses. A lot of sea­sonal fruits such as wa­ter­mel­ons, jack­fruits and ba­nanas as well as dam­aged fruits, which are not mar­ketable any­more, are usu­ally piled up in what is in ef­fect a garbage dump.

The smell is rank. The only hap­pi­ness these street chil­dren can en­joy is eat­ing these dis­carded fruits with their dirty hands. They can be seen eat­ing the re­jected wa­ter­mel­ons hap­pily and kid­ding each other. Not far away from them, older chil­dren in their early teens, act as guardians, and can be seen ar­gu­ing over how to split up the fish they have caught to­day.

The smiles and jokes hide a tough re­al­ity – these kids don’t have a fam­ily and don’t have a fu­ture. They lack ed­u­ca­tion. They lack the ba­sic knowl­edge about hy­giene. They eat dis­carded food, even though it might make them ill.

And they lack dis­ci­pline – fail­ing to move and shout­ing back at el­ders from the nearby huts who come to try to drive them away. Home­less, with no place to sleep, they get by as best they can.Some learn how to sur­vive as beg­gars. Some learn how to earn their liv­ing as rag pick­ers.

Some slip of the tracks, sniff­ing glue or re­sort­ing to petty crime such as pick­pock­et­ing or other forms of theft. And we learn that the num­ber of these kids is in­creas­ing. Of­fi­cials claimed in their 100-day scheme when the new gov­ern­ment came in that they would clean up the streets of these kids, some be­ing sent to ju­ve­nile shel­ters or even ju­ve­nile cor­rec­tion cen­tres. But there is little to in­di­cate this “clean up” had any sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect.

Street chil­dren are typ­i­cally or­phans or dis­owned chil­dren. Street chil­dren sent to ju­ve­nile shel­ters are re­garded as vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren un­der sec­tion 32 of the Ju­ve­nile Act.

In the Yan­gon Re­gion, there are 70 shel­ters for these chil­dren, run to try to re­duce the num­ber of kids left to fend for them­selves on the streets. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, over 7,500 street chil­dren in the age group of 8-18 are pro­vided shel­ter and food in these ju­ve­nile shel­ters and homes.

It is un­clear at this stage whether the au­thor­i­ties have a clear plan as to how to look af­ter these chil­dren and put them on the path to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. These kids are part of Myan­mar’s fu­ture. Even the kids caught break­ing the law should be put on the path to a bet­ter fu­ture.

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