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Increase of street children in Juba

According to a research carried out by Reuters recently about 3,000 children are roaming the streets of Juba as homeless because of a lot of factors.

Others ran away from homes, some from family break ups, others from abuses which affect them both mentally and physically, some due to polygamy practices, others due to loss of both parents and years of negligence.

Sebit Patrick, the Director of child social welfare, said the increase of street children in Juba is because Juba is the capital city and the children come to look for survival and engage themselves in activities that will at least earn them money.

“We as the ministry, working with some partners have established orphanage to reduce the number of street children.” He said.

He also said that when the number increases, the children become robbers and thieves in the market hence they become a risk to the community.

He added that the street children are from 9 to 18 years old but some can exceed 20 years in age. Patrick said the root cause of their increase is poverty which forces them to come to the town. He added that the street children are not coming from one state but are from different states and where they are coming from there is poverty and shortage of employment opportunities.

He mentioned that there are females among the street children but their numbers are not the same as that of the male ones. Patrick said there is no guarantee that the issue of street children will stop but they need to be reduced in the centers. “Those who want to go to school they are enrolled to school and those who want mechanic handwork will be enrolled to technical schools,” he added.

He further said that the centers are not owned by the government but are of the private individuals and they are supporting themselves. Adding that to reduce the number of crimes committed by the street children it is to enroll them in school and mechanical work.

Meanwhile Omar Sharif el-Din the director in directorate of social welfare, said they have established different centers namely; the Catholic University since 2017 has been active for the past 3 years in Gudele, Jebel Yesuwa for both orphans and street children since 2016. He noted that the children are well. He said the Koreans are sponsoring them in the centers. “They are also trained in karate and it is advanced,” he added. Omar pointed out that they also have Atekiro center in Suk Libya both for girls and boys but it is not standard and not well built.

Omar further said that this center takes children from 7 to 8 years because there is nursery. He also said they have another branch in the mission called CCC and this is for orphans, street children, abandoned and raped victims so it is a safety house and it works as a rehabilitation center for the children.

In addition he said the street children have a lot of problems but the war in South Sudan has caused it because they hardly get food, shelter, health, education. They come to Juba and end up forgetting their cultures; they don’t have employment and move from place to place.

Omar Sharif el – Din went on to describe the environment in which the children live in which include dormitories and they are given counseling and advice. Those who are interested in education will be taken to school and those who are not interested are counseled and taken to their family members.

Patrick Lobok chairman of orphanage street link children in Gudele west block 3 said that they face a lot of challenges. “First all the children are very violent that they cannot be mixed with community children because sometimes they beat up the children and mistreat them,” he lamented. “It is just a camping mechanism for them, because growing up while only caring for yourself is hard and confusing to see someone else caring for you and trying to help you.”

He also said they face the challenge of teaching them moral behavior because they have grown up in the streets and it is very hard to tell the person he or she is not used to. It is also very hard to keep the children grounded, they don’t like to stay in one place, they move around the school compound. In their sleeping places, they move till late hours like 11 pm and the police normally arrest them and bring them back.

Patrick also said that the biggest challenge is that the children have resorted to drugs and where they are getting the drugs? He urged the government to try and limit access of some children to certain drugs unless accompanied by adults. It is not very strong to bring up the policy to prevent this from going to the market, most of the children they are seeing have access to bangi, marungi where are they getting these things from? “This things are not in South Sudan. They come from East Africa i.e. Uganda, Kenya. “

He said one of the solutions to the challenges is “we have selected class leaders so once these  children cause problems they are responsible for them. This has at least reduced the challenges because they are the same people, speak the same language and at least once they say something they will understand”.

He mentioned that the other challenge is about tribalism. It has to be stopped because they have brought it to the center. “So we have decided to mix them together in their sleeping places at least like three different tribes in one room.”

In addition, he said that they have introduced a system of roll call during school periods so those who have not attended school are not given food during evening hours to reduce the challenge of not attending school and they will be encouraged to come to school. “We also brought some pastors to preach and talk to them giving them good hopes and also they have some who have been street children for a long time and now they are successful and serve as an example to them,” Mr Lobok added.

One of the male street children from Kapoeta State said he came to Juba because he needs education and no one is supporting him in his state. He also says he expects to get educated.

One of the female street children from Jonglei state says she was staying with her grandmother and they didn’t have enough money so that she could be educated, then she decided to go to the street and collected bottles and sold them to get money for her survival. She also said Patrick Lobok found her in the street and brought her to the orphanage and she feels life is good. She added that she excepts to get educated and help other street children as they helped her.

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