Street children exhibit resilience at its best.
They live on the edges of life and face a World of extreme uncertainties and odds to survive, a kind of life that is stranger to mainstream society.
The best society does is to push them furthest of the limits of life, making it extremely difficult to survive the already harsh conditions in the open world, without shelter, warm clothing, assurances of a meal, protection, and recognition.
Yet, if given opportunities to benefit from community development programmes, like any other citizen, they flourish.
Unfortunately, it is never the case. It is the well-to-do who continue to benefit from such programs, while a blind eye focuses on the poor as street children.
It is important to know that these children have huge potential to become resourceful to their abusive families, communities, and neglectful country and World, whether on their own, or with support from hostile authorities.
Street children are most resilient humans one can find, who easily fit in jobs opportunities that call for resilient people if there is such a need.
But, this does not mean that only “dangerous” places are best for them as sources of livelihood. They are humans too, who deserve the best for their lives and, indeed, they know that, and look to such a life. It is only unfortunate that they have to go through hard and risky routines to find a coin or a few coins. From their earnings, they are able to buy food, drinking water, and clothes for leisure time activities.
Essentially, they rely on begging, fetching scrap materials, washing cars, collecting water for small business owners, cleaning utensils in exchange for food and, under extreme cases, they form gangs for individual security against hostile neighborhood and upgrade to stealing for a livelihood.
If compassion was the rule in relating with street children, extreme forms of behaviour could not arise between street children and authorities.
The standards of living are set by families they come from, communities, and city authorities who are obliged to protect them.
The violence against children and later street children is three-layered. This is enough to push any human being in ways of the jungle. They face discrimination and exclusion from neighborhood and city authorities, and are not part of the urban development agenda, and appear antisocial, whose best place is detention facility or prison.
While they face a World of extreme uncertainties and odds of living and surviving, at its best, society pushes them furthest to the end of limits that life can tolerate. This makes it extremely difficult for them to survive the already harsh conditions in the open World, without shelter, warm clothing, assurances of a meal, protection, and recognition.
But, sooner than later, and by way of group initiation, the difficult circumstances become normal, and it is (normalcy) that gives them the strength to push on everyday, to surprise or scare people outside their group structures.
Eventually, they survive so well and dominate slum business. With further support, as they very opportunity much wish, they succeed at their small business and join the core of the informal sector.
At this point, the street children we once knew as such are different human beings. Some participants in a study carried out by IMI in 2019 around central Kampala city, showed some of the children street dressed so smartly that street life was now a thing of the past.
However, they remained so popular among the “struggling” street children. Despite making such advances, they showed a need to go back to school and increase prospects of better employment remits; and, like most unemployed youths, they sought for job opportunities with better wages within their abilities and skills-sets.
As such, their socioeconomic statuses can be improved for them to join the mainstream communities as “legitimate” citizens and city dwellers.
In addition, street children could go on to become national and international icons, when given a hand to do so. That way, they can even go on to join the leadership of the country.
For now they struggle to with all sorts of odds and uncertainties they face on the streets, including what is thrown at them by so-called legitimate actions of city dwellers and authorities.
A fact-finding mission on the ‘Impact of Street Children on Development of Cities” showed that they had huge potential to become resourceful citizens if given opportunities as those celebrating successes of life. There was also evidence that they squeezed through the informal sector, renowned for fastest returns on investment and get-rich quick setting.
As a basic right and source of livelihood, they demanded to live in cities like any other citizen, to benefit from economic boom that characterize urban areas. They yearned to be treated as human beings with rights to be protected by law.
Particularly, discrimination and hostility from neighborhoods and city authorities were primary huddles in their struggle for decent living.
Street children were often treated as outlaws, without opportunity to acquire development skills, and exposure to promote their talents, mainly in music and soccer.
The needs were educational, economic, health in nature, which included; talents promotion, active participation and benefit from community development programmes, such grants to start businesses, talent promotion shows, vocational learning, languages skills development, business skills, skills for life, knowledge on sex and reproductive health, or access such services.
And, while these development programmes took effect, financial appreciation for casual and half-day tasks improved their self-esteem, therefore, they preferred education and casual work to be accorded ny such support to them concurrently.
At institutional level, there was need for sharing field reports, research collaboration, joint interventions, and availing of equipment to support recreation and rehabilitation with focus on Africa, through established development agencies, in order to change the demonized face of street children and secure a decent future for them.