By Patson Gumbo

As one drives along Samora Machel Avenue from Eastlea right up to the Showgrounds in the capital, it has become a daily trend that at traffic lights he/she will be greeted by young children asking for help. As if it’s not enough, driving towards the Western suburbs as you reach Marimba robots in Belvedere again the situation is synonymous with that of the central business district, young boys, street children perhaps, asking for as little as 10 cents, one wonders if it is to buy food.

Over the past few months Zimbabwe has seen a rise of street children whose dressing is evidence that they are coming from home. These children beggars have become a major highlight of Samora Machel Avenue and one can’t help but wonder what has led to this rise in children in the streets asking for money from motorists.

We rule out that these young children would actually be living in the streets as earlier indicated that their dress code really tells a different story. These children from my observation are coming from their homes to beg for money.

Growing up back in the day, the city centre was a place that I wasn’t used entering often, being a student at a local primary school and it was only when I was in secondary going to a school in town that I was getting used to being there every weekday but never had time to really wander around as I would be punished for roaming aimlessly in the CBD after leaving school. Where has that respect for school uniform gone to as we see these children begging at robots clad in their uniforms? Where are their parents when this is happening? Are these children going to focus on their schoolwork when they are now used to getting money easily through begging? Do they even have time for that schoolwork or their homework when after school they go to the streets to look for money?

Walking past the intersection of Samora Machel and Leopold Takawira one of these fine days early in the morning my heart really bled as I saw a mother, probably in her 20s tying a child barely a year old to another young child, I would say she might be between 10 and 12 years old and sending her to the middle of the road to ask for money from passing motorists. As I watched this unfold, trying to understand what was happening so I could talk to this mother, she disappeared leaving the young girl with a baby on her back on the middle of the road.

Question would be does this mother really deserve to be taking care of these children when she endangers their lives in that way? Yes the economy is harsh but really is it enough to endanger the lives of one’s children? With so many bad drivers on the roads these days and one really has the nerve to leave their young children at the mercy of these motorists? What is our government’s stance on this? Surely this trend should not be allowed to continue.

Is this how we have become as a people, parents sending their young children to look for money from the streets? I don’t think it is right for children to be in the streets approaching every car that stops at a robot asking for a few cents. It is the duty of any parent to be able to provide for their family, not having to send a 10 year old to the streets to find ways of making money. What culture are we planting in that child at such a tender age? Aren’t we creating a generation that is lazy to work, that relies on handouts? I would say that generation is doomed and we are in a way grooming criminals. As they grow older used to getting money from the streets, what will happen in an instance that they fail to get that money? Won’t they move on to smash and grab when a motorist has nothing to give them? Won’t we see a rise in prostitution and criminal activities?

Being a parent is more than just giving birth to a child; it requires a lot more than that. It involves among others being able to take care of your children, providing for them, working hard for the family. It is therefore of utmost importance for us to make families that we are able to take care of. Starting a family is not achievement especially when we fail to give our children the basic things, like their right to a home, right to a meal and right to education. Sending them to beg is a serious violation of their rights and not something that any child should be subjected to.

In all this another question that pops up is where has the extended family gone to? Are they content seeing their nephews and nieces going through that awful ordeal of endangering their lives by standing between the roads? In Shona they say “Kuzvara kwemumwe kuzvara kwakowo”, bringing out the need to look out for each other.

Where is the church in all this? When will we see the church rising to this occasion and help the less-privileged in society? Where is the corporate world with their social responsibility? What is the position of the government with regards to this matter? For how long are we going to sit and fold our hands as these young children are being led astray? The time has come now for us as Zimbabweans to address this issue and rescue these children before a time comes when we cannot control them.

These children need to be in school or at home as they are the future leaders and once they get lost at this age, it will be impossible to show them the right track. As the Chinese would put it, “Never give a man a fish but rather teach him how to catch fish”; let us also be able to give these children a future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.