Street Children and Employment Opportunities
Njeru, Enos H N
Njoka, John M.
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Although there is a general realization that there are "people" in the streets, we often take the phenomenon for granted probably because we wake up and go home only to come to the streets the following morning and still find the people. This situation is, however, changing with the emergence of the "birth" and increase of street children as we begin to take into consideration the category of people to be routinely found on the. streets. The phrases "street children" refer to the children below the statutory adult age living on or found on the streets. These children derive their livelihood from the streets. We often distinguish between children on streets and children a/the streets. While the children on the streets may have a "home" to go to, the latter are an integral part ofthe street having nowhere to retire to at the end of the day. The street children have actually been there for as long as the urban centres existed probably due to the social and physical characteristics of the urban centres in which the duality of outcome is a predominant feature (Gichuru, 1993). Thus the modern urban centre has always been a place of poverty and riches, chaos and order, squalor and splendour, development and underdevelopment. Street children have, however, not been viewed so much as a problem until recently following the unprecedented urban growth. Although the street children phenomenon is not unique to urban areas of the LDCs, the phenomenon has become so widespread in some urban centres that there has been a mushrooming of organizations whose activities are mainly centred around rehabilitation of the street children. Many studies indicate that the street children phenomenon is not only increasing but is also becoming widespread and affecting millions of children (Grant et. aI., 1989; Gichuru, 1993; ICIHI, 1986 and Suda, 1994). The number of street children increased from 15 in 1969 to nearly 500,000 in 1994 (Gichohi, 1994)• This number is expected to rise to 7 million by the year 2000, if we were to base our calculation on the rate of 10 % increase per annum. In addition, many street children are becoming children o/the streets and we are now increasingly talking of street families and street gangs. Most of the street children are in the urban areas. This chapter argues that the street children phenomenon is born out of consequences of the unprecedented rate of urbanization process which leads to unemployment, poverty and cultural loss. This culminates in the devaluation of the child who has, therefore, to fend for himlherself from the streets.