via Children turned hawkers as economic crisis deepens – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 28, 2014 by Michelle Chifamba
IN the face of a crumbling economy, many children have dropped out of school and littered the streets of Harare where they struggle to make ends meet for their families through hawking.
They survive on the sale of different merchandise at the busy street corners.
For many people, the street is a simple means that people use to reach their destinations, where they usually board transport that takes them from one point to another.
But the same streets have slowly become home to many children who are now grappling with economics and commerce in the streets.
While some are sweating from scribbling history notes and scratching their heads solving algebra in class, others are in the busy streets of the capital, dodging moving vehicles as they sell airtime recharge cards, boiled eggs and green mealies, among other items.
In the splashing summer rains, the biting winter nights and the scorching sun’s rays, the bare soles of their feet have been hardened as they toil in the cruel and busy streets to earn a living for themselves and their families.
“Stuck between the starting line and their destinations in life, many children who have succumbed to the effects of the dwindling economy have resorted to the streets to help their families economically. Like a jungle they have become accustomed to their ways of life,” said Gilbert Kudzai, an independent social analyst based in Harare.
Thus for some, they did not end up in the streets by mistake, but there is an explanation to their decision.
“I have to make money to pay for my school fees, I work in the day and at night I go to a local church and attend night school,” said a boy in his teens who sells boiled eggs in one of the capital’s streets.
“My day starts as early as 4am and by day break, I would have sold at least two crates of eggs on a normal day. Thus by the end of the day, I would have sold more than five crates of eggs. Therefore, I usually make $5 per day from the sells,” the boy explained.
Although the money is not enough, the boy says he has to struggle to take care of himself, his mother and his three siblings from the meagre earnings.
Others, as young as three months old, have become friendly to the harsh environment of the hustling and bustling in the pavements of Harare as they accompany their mothers into the streets to make a living.
“The idea of having a child raised in the streets is scary, but there is no other option because I have to make a living. My heart bleeds for the safety of my child who may one day become even more hopeless than me when she gets lost suppose I get arrested, since wrestling with the police is our daily bread,” said Martha Mugoni (26), who sells vegetables in the streets.
Such are the burdens being carried by the small children whose future lies on a balance, as life has become normal in the streets.
According to statistics, 90% of Zimbabwe’s population is no longer formerly employed and survives on informal employment.
“Teenagers have found life in the streets as a result of the dire economic conditions and some policies by the government that have led to a failed employment system forcing Zimbabwe’s workforce into the streets,” added Kudzai.
Many children are now paying the price for the socio-economic deterioration as they endure the cruelty of the streets.
“Children have become accustomed to street life and it affects their wellbeing as the current situation affects their psychology and growth, they cannot play like many children of their age,” Kudzai added.
Research has shown that teenagers between the age of 13 and 18 are the responsibility of the local government and social workers.
Volunteers that work with children from vulnerable communities have been helping take children out of the streets by raising funds to take them to school instead of them hawking in the streets.
Vision HIV/AIDS, an organisation that works with children from slum communities, notes that due to the dire economic hardships children have assumed parental roles at a tender age thus robbing them their childhood.
“We have projects here that we to train many young children from vulnerable communities to start income generating projects. We also source funds from donors to pay school fees and school stationery for the school children as a way of keeping them out of the streets,” Vision HIV/AIDS director Justice Mbiva said.
According to the chairperson of the Council of Social Workers Philip Bohwasi, children are protected by the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child and the Constitution yet they are now vulnerable and they need to be protected and cared for.
“The morality of any society is judged by the way we treat our children. Many children now miss their right to care and protection. Children in the streets are the mirror to our future,” Bohwasi said.