We have failed these children

We have failed these children

OUR last week’s story on the plight of street children which was headlined, The forgotten children, has triggered some soul-searching among Basotho.
A group of children who now eke a living on the streets have now taken over an old, abandoned house right in the centre of Maseru.
The question most people are asking is: How could such a thing happen right under the nose of a government that purports to have the interests of children at heart?

How could such a thing happen under a government that has a ministry dedicated entirely to the promotion of the welfare of children?
Why have these children been allowed to stay in such appalling conditions where they are exposed to squalor, disease and other social ills?
It would appear that whatever the government has been doing in looking after street children through the Ministry of Social Development has been woefully inadequate.
It is clear that something is just not right.

The abandoned children at the “house of horror” in Maseru are only a microcosm of a bigger social problem haunting Lesotho. There are other children in similar or even worse circumstances across Lesotho.
Some of these children are double orphans largely as a result of the AIDS pandemic that wreaked havoc in Lesotho in the early to the late 1990’s before the advent of life-saving ARVs.
Others have run away from dysfunctional families where they felt they were being ill-treated. Having been introduced to life on the streets, they now find it very difficult to go back home.
When children lost parents in death in the past, the larger extended family would step in. The extended family provided the safety nets.

Unfortunately, that extended family structure has virtually collapsed, leaving most of these orphans to fend for themselves.
With the traditional family structure dysfunctional, the role of looking after the orphans has now been left to churches and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which appear overwhelmed.
It would be wrong for us to stand and shout from the hilltop as if we have ready-made solutions to this large social problem.

We however think that more resources need to be channeled towards NGOs that are dealing with street children. The idea is to rehabilitate these children so that they can go back to school.
If we do not take this route, we can be certain that it would be almost impossible to rescue these children and break the cycle of poverty.
We need to take these children into orphanages before they embark on other social vices like prostitution in a desperate attempt to survive.
We need to see much more robust social protection programmes for street children.

No child must be left to fend on their own on the streets.
We note that our story has generated a lot of interest from readers on social media. Sadly, a week after the story broke, there still has been no real movement from the government and the NGO sector to address the plight of these children.
We hope the story will trigger some kind of soul-searching among those in government and stir them to act to relieve the plight of these children and many others in similar circumstances.
As a society we are judged on the basis of how we treat and look after our own children. So far, the verdict is that we have dismally failed these children. Much more needs to be done for these little souls.

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