IT COULD BE A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES but also a cry for immediate response: the cosmic amount of youths, let alone children, begging and making ends meet through directing traffic, caretaking parked vehicles and lending a helping hand….
A recent encounter with one little boy, who looked to be less than eight years old, was an experience that had me contemplating. The image he portrayed was of a mature self, a mouthful of betelnut and a lighted cigarette.
But it was an occurrence that is becoming all too familiar with more and more children taking up the same role. Itinerant begging on the street has become a way of life for these distressed children.
It brings about a string of questions. Why are these children on the streets? Where are their parents? Are they aware their children are doing these things? What is the city council doing? Why is this issue being ignored?
It seems that the problem of child begging is present in many underdeveloped countries. There are children of all ages, as young as four, begging on our streets. Are we all just plain ignorant about this or rather not meddle with it. But it is an immediate concern for our whole nation.
“If a child is given love, he becomes loving,” says Dr Joyce Brothers. “If he's helped when he needs help, he becomes helpful. And if he has been truly valued at home ... he grows up secure enough to look beyond himself to the welfare of others.”
Our future, the future of Papua New Guinea, is these children. While the ones more likely to run the country are in the academic institutions across the nation, those that loaf on the streets are equally as important.
They make up a larger population most likely to become vendors, bus drivers, rangers and bandits. If we wish to see the fruits of the seeds we plant, we have to weed and prune and nurture. If we become oblivious to them, they become barren and wild.
These children need to be given a sense of hope and a sense of dignity - a chance. There need to be lured into education and self help. Our country must find a way to alleviating poverty and hopelessness.
Countries like Malawi have laws that ban street begging, especially child begging, as a way of protecting and helping children. Why couldn’t we do the same? Why aren’t there laws in place to eradicate an issue that has deteriorated the minds of our children?
Street begging leads to a sense of dependency and low self esteem that lead these children to involve themselves in vicious doings such as car theft, pick pocketing, and even murder.
It should be a social obligation for responsible intellectuals to correct this problem. The working class people who grace the paths of Douglas Street, downtown and other commercial areas where these child beggars populate should not turn a blind eye and enthusiastically encourage them, instead hold back the loose change and save their lives. As the saying goes, do not give a man a fish; teach him how to fish.
Child beggar rehabilitation is necessary and important if we are genuinely concerned about the future of our children and of this nation.
I believe that the way forward is to engage those NGO which deal with such issues as they have an understanding and effective approaches.
The government should work with these NGOs in ensuring efficient funding towards rehabilitating our children, getting them off the streets and giving them a life-long skill that will enable them to see that they are important aspects towards a brighter future and our agents of change.