In Uganda, the term ‘street child’ has a negative connotation. Children living on the streets are seen as an eyesore, pollution of the cities and towns and called names such as ‘Muyaaye,’ which translates to words like a hooligan, deviant, or criminal (Human Rights Watch, 2014). Street children can be found living or sleeping on the streets of any major city throughout Uganda, but are very prevalent in the capital, Kampala. They are ignored, rejected and abused by the surrounding community. The little attention offered by the government of Uganda and a few NGOs that care for the street children is not enough to bring lasting solutions to the plight of street children in the country. Despite the fact that the UNHCR emphasized that governments should initiate public awareness campaigns to shed light on the plight of street children, the Ugandan government responded by removing the children through the police force and dropping them off at rehabilitation centers designed to detain juvenile criminals (Human Rights Watch, 2014).
Adversely, the government strategy of rounding up deviant children and placing them in a ‘rehabilitation center’ hinders the children’s wellbeing and fails to provide them with actual support or resources. This approach has time and time again failed to solve the problem of children living on the streets and has not proven sustainable in the least bit (Bourdillon, Levison, Myers & White, 2010). Scared they will end up in detention centers, the children run from the government’s support and into illegal ways of survival (Human Rights Watch, 2014). This leads to vulnerable children being taken advantage of and then facing criminalization fuelled by stigmatization (Kevin, 2014).
The stigmatization and prejudice that street children in Uganda encounter in their daily lives make them more vulnerable. However, even without stigmas and negative labels, the children are still forced into a life of no shelter, exposure to drugs, sexual exploitation, gang beatings, foraging through trash for food scraps, begging, stealing, child labor, and police abuse (Kevin, 2014).
Effective February 2020, Edu Child Foundation Uganda is implementing a program for the street children of Kampala called Hopes for Street Kids Program (HSKP) aimed at ensuring that street children are given a holistic opportunity to transform into fulfilled and responsible persons of the society. This program has been birthed as a result of a new partnership formed with a former street boy (Derrick Otua) who had been inspired to go back to empower those he left on the street after having been rescued and given opportunities in life.
Through this program, our dream is to positively contribute to overcoming the challenges faced by street children in Uganda through a theory of rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration. This we hope to achieve through the provision of holistic care, education, life-skills, psychological support, reconciliation, healthcare support and other basic needs for the vulnerable street children; which all contribute to the holistic development of a child and the community. We believe that rehabilitation for these children can only occur when we fully recognize their situation and support them from the inside-out.
As an organization, we are greatly bothered about the plight of the street child considering the many instances of child exploitation, child labor, trafficking and child prostitution among others; that are the norms on the street. In light of this, we have decided to extend our activities to prevent these kinds of abuses that these children at risk face daily. This program is an outcome of our sincere desire for helping the children in difficult circumstances.