When There is no Parental Care

A child is a second foremost gift from GOD. When a child is born, family members, relatives, workmates and all sorts of colleagues come with assorted items as presents to the mother and the newly recruited mortal creature. Blessings are also brought in for a better health and life of the newly born baby. People tend to have great expectations on the child. The best and foremost expectation is that the child gets educated and succeed in life. Nobody really knows what lies ahead of the children. According to UNESCO, about 87% of all children in Malawi are enrolled into different primary schools in the country but only 58% manage to complete primary school education whilst 20% repeat one or more school years several times depending on family situations. Lucky are those found among the 58% group. Such children see their dreams coming into reality little by little.
But this is not the case with Joseph* (not his real name). A first born in a family of four, Joseph was born in the year of 2002 in the lakeshore district of Salima. As usual, blessings and gifts were showered upon him. In 2008, he was enrolled at one of the primary schools in the district. His parents really loved him and always encouraged him to work hard at school. In 2009, he failed standard 2 end of year examinations and was forced to repeat the class. This was not that he wasn’t bright, but something had gone wrong in his family. In December 2008, his family had moved from the lakeshore district to live in slums at Mgona in Lilongwe. His father couldn’t raise enough money to support his family and resorted into piece works. Due to low income generation, Joseph failed to make it to standard 3 in the next three years because they were now 3 in the family.
In 2012, Joseph’s father was employed as a guard at one of construction companies at Kanengo in the city. He could now raise enough money to support his family which included his elderly mother by the time. Joseph now made it to standard 3 and his sister Ruth who was born in 2006 started standard 1 at Chipala Primary school at Mgona in the city. In 2013, they moved from Mgona to live in the neighboring Chimoka because his father had bought a plot on which he built a house. The buying of the house seemed to be a relief to Joseph’s problems but was rather another burden on this young man’s future. “Atangogula malo kwa a Chimoka zinthu zinasiyanso kuyenda” [Once he had bought the plot at Chimoka, problems returned], recalls Joseph.
Though Joseph made it to standard 4, he is no longer going to school because his parents stopped supporting him together with his grandmother and sister. Joseph’s parents left for Salima in early September last year because things went sour at Chimoka. “Anangochoka mu Sepitambala kupita kumudzi, anatitsanzika kuti akupita kuchiliza kumudzi koma tikudabwa kuti sakubwera mpakana pano” [They just left in September last year, they told us that they are going to tomb unveiling but are yet to return]. Joseph and Ruth were left at Chimoka together with their ageing grandmother who hardly walks.
Joseph was now left with a big role of taking care of his grandmother and sister Ruth who is now in standard 2 at Chipala Primary School. Since he could not afford to buy exercise books on his own and nobody seemed to help him, Joseph dropped out from school though he knew it was a risk to his future “panalibe chimene ndikanachita” [There was nothing I could do].
The life of Joseph is never the same. An ambitious boy who used to wake up early in the morning getting ready for school is now a street kid who wakes up in the wee hours to collect bottles to sell for that day’s bread. From an ambitious person, Joseph has now joined other 2389 (UNESCO 2014 report) street kids in the capital city.
When his friends are in class, Joseph moves up and down in dustbins collecting bottles. He collects about 20 bottles a day of which are sold at K10 each. After selling the bottles, Joseph gives the money to his grandmother to buy food and some necessities. At the age of 13, Joseph is now a bread winner. But what happens when Joseph hasn’t managed to collect bottles? He moves from one place to another begging for a penny from well-wishers. Although he is doing all this, he has some well to do relatives who reside in area 25 and 49 Dubai but no one has come into right to save the innocent soul. On the other hand, his sister draws water for some people in the area and charges k50 a single trip. “Tikaphatikiza ndalama imene timapeza ine ndi mchemwali wanga simakwana kugwiritsa ntchito ndipo masiku ambiri timagona ndi njala [The money and my sister get is not enough to support us and sometimes we sleep on empty stomachs].
Joseph fears that his future is gone. An idol of Wanderers’ goalie Richard Chipuwa, Joseph who is a natural goalie wanted to be between goal posts for one of the big teams in Malawi.
Have you ever spared your precious time to think that there are a lot of people who can be saved by the little help you can offer? Joseph fears that his future is gone and says he will be happy if someone pulls him out of the burden.
He feels like crying when he saw children who were scrambling for commodities at area 30. These were students from Nankhaka L.E.A School and were at break at the time.
Joseph is just one of thousands of children who are struggling for their survival. Even though the number of street children is on the rise in Malawi, in 2014 Malawi government set aside implementations to withdraw all children from the streets and put them in orphan care centers so that they should continue with their education. Amidst the reformation of ministry of education which authorizes children to pay school fees at primary among other standards, such children need to go back to school. It is not one man’s job to keep the streets free from street kids, it is rather everybody’s role. A better Malawi is possible if we educate our children today.

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