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Lawmaker’s proposal to put avenue kids in camps stirs controversy

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Feb 10, 2021

controversial plan put ahead by an Egyptian member of parliament to spherical up avenue kids and place them in coaching and rehabilitation camps overseen by retired military officers has alarmed kids’s rights advocates.    

“The phenomenon of street children is a serious challenge that, if left unchecked, can become a ticking time bomb,” lawmaker Ayat El Haddad warned throughout a parliamentary listening to with Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Kabbaj in early February.    

El Haddad’s thought of putting avenue kids in rehabilitation camps was impressed by the same initiative undertaken by Mohamed Ali (thought-about the founder of recent Egypt) two centuries in the past. The Albanian Ottoman governor, who dominated the nation from 1805 to 1848, reportedly gathered some 300,000 avenue kids and positioned them in a desert camp within the south of the nation the place they had been skilled by grasp craftsmen.    

“The proposed camp would not only help build the capacities of street children, it would also deepen their sense of belonging in their communities, helping counter the threat they pose to society,” she stated. 

El Haddad additionally instructed that the camp be managed by retired military officers and that the (older) kids be recruited into the military. “We ought to make use of the extraordinary capabilities these children have such as their ability to tolerate cold weather.”

Some activists on social media had been dismayed by the feedback, viewing them as illiberal; skeptics expressed doubt that avenue kids would be taught something “in such institutions.” Others welcomed El Haddad’s remarks, agreeing that avenue kids characterize an actual hazard to society. 

The damaging notion of some Egyptians towards avenue kids stems from the kids’s stigmatization by the media, which frequently portrays them as “criminals” and “thugs.” While it’s not unusual for these minors to interact in petty theft, avenue brawls and substance abuse, some kids’s rights advocates argue that the homeless kids living on the streets are, in actual fact, victims of “a collective failure by society.”    

Manal Shaheen, a toddler improvement advisor and former Child Helpline director on the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, dismissed the lawmaker’s thought as “outrageous.”  

“To perceive the true wants of avenue kids, we should first decide what the time period means,” she informed Al-Monitor. “Some of the children we see on the streets are working children who earn a livelihood selling Kleenex or other items to help sustain their families; they return home at the end of each day.”

“Others are migrants from rural communities who believe they can earn some money doing odd jobs in cities like Cairo and Alexandria; they return to their rural villages at the end of the week,” she stated. “Street children are in fact, the homeless children who have made the street their home  and who are without adequate protection and aren’t supervised by responsible adults.”  

Iman Bibars, a co-founder and chairperson of the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, an Egyptian nongovernmental group offering credit score and authorized assist to impoverished ladies additionally rejected the legislator’s thought, describing it as “tantamount to putting homeless children in prison and treating them as villains and criminals when they are in fact, vulnerable victims.”  

Data on avenue kids is scanty and the precise variety of kids which have made the road their home is unknown. The 2014 Population Council survey places the overall variety of avenue kids at 16,000 however that determine has been disputed by the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, which insists the precise numbers are a lot larger. 

Bibars informed Al-Monitor that by her work through the years, she has discovered that kids from giant underprivileged households typically depart home to earn a living on the streets. “Others are from broken families or leave home to escape violence at the hands of abusive parents or a stepparent.” 

Those kids typically get up to the cruel actuality that life on the streets is even more durable because it topics them to exploitation and violence, typically on the palms of police whose obligation is to guard them. “The minors also experience violence at the hands of ordinary citizens and other street children; they often succumb to peer pressure, learning street behavior and survival tactics from each other,” Bibars stated.   

Although Egypt’s Child Law No. 176 of 2008 contains provisions that require the state to be answerable for the welfare of youngsters and guarantee their safety from all types of discrimination and violence, “There remains a vast gap between the existing legislation and the reality on the ground for street children,” Shaheen lamented.     

The authorities has lately stepped up efforts to guard kids in danger, together with avenue kids. “The overall approach of the government focuses on reducing the risk factors that are known to trigger children leaving their homes,” stated Jonathan Crickx, the chief of communication at UNICEF Egypt. “This is done by strengthening child protection systems and expanding anti-poverty and social protection interventions such as the national cash transfer program Takaful and Karama,” he informed Al-Monitor.

Initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Social Solidarity to deal with the wants of weak kids embody the “Children Without Shelter” program, which is being carried out in collaboration with Long Live Egypt (Tahya Misr Fund) and civil society organizations equivalent to Caritas. The program entails dispatching cell vans to areas the place there are giant numbers of avenue kids in governorates equivalent to Qalyubia, Cairo and Alexandria. First assist kits are distributed among the many homeless minors, who’re skilled to make use of the kits to cope with minor accidents and accidents, in accordance with Maged Zaki, a venture supervisor with Caritas.   

Ministry representatives additionally attempt to accumulate official paperwork equivalent to beginning certificates with out which the homeless kids are unable to hunt refuge in shelters. A ministry supply who spoke to Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity as he was not approved to talk to the press stated most avenue kids haven’t any paperwork as they hail from second- or third-generation homeless households. 

“We try to help the children transition from street life to full integration into a supportive family system — be it their own family, the extended family or an alternative family; we do this by helping them give up the habits and attitudes they have picked up while living on the streets, including violence and by settling family disputes so that the homeless child may return home,” Zaki stated. 

He continued, “We deal with the children case by case through case management units that seek to identify the reason why the child left home before providing him or her with tailor-made services that fit their needs, be it psychological, medical or social support, to help the child eventually reunite with his/her family.”    

The rehabilitation course of might take from six months to 2 years to finish throughout which period the kids, lots of whom are college dropouts, could also be persuaded to return to high school. If that isn’t attainable, they attend literacy lessons or are despatched to group faculties of their districts, in accordance with Zaki. These one-classroom faculties goal out-of-school kids (particularly women) in disadvantaged areas and use interactive studying strategies to train kids important life abilities. 

The Child Helpline launched by the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood in 2005 allows kids to file complaints and search assist if threatened with violence or abuse. According to Zaki, whose group is collaborating with the council on working the Child Helpline in 4 governorates (Cairo, Giza, Assiut and Minya), lots of the complaints come from witnesses who report incidents of violence, together with sexual assault or abuse of youngsters living on the streets.  

Shaheed stated that one the council employees obtain a grievance, “They immediately reach out to the child, who very often is traumatized.” stated Shaheen. She stated that the “children cannot be forced to move into shelters,” the council connects them with nongovernmental organizations “such as the Hope Village Society and Ana El Masry that can help them recover from their traumas.”         

Officials stated the Ministry of Social Solidarity continues to observe up on the circumstances even after the homeless little one has been reunited together with his/her household, providing monetary assist to these households to make sure the kid’s security and well-being,      

UNICEF is collaborating with the ministry to activate little one safety committees (whose formation was mandated by the 2008 Child Law), which Crickx stated “play an important role as a child protection network.” He added, “We are also enhancing the capacity of social workers,” a move hailed by Shaheen as essential in addressing the wants of weak kids.:.    

“Many of the existing shelters lack experienced, well-trained staff and this may drive some children back on the street, leaving us where we started,” she lamented.    

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