KARACHI: According to a recent study, a street child who has been addicted to drugs lives an average life of a maximum 30 years.
Shafiq Ahmed, programme manager at DevCon, shared these statistics at an awareness programme for street children. The event was organised by DevCon, Child Rights Movement (CRM) and Commune Artist Colony to empower of street children and make them realise their importance in the society. Working under the slogan ‘Let’s empower every child’, DevCon has reached out to street children who beg, sell things and sleep on roadsides.
Explaining how they started the programme, Ahmed said that they deal with and help three kinds of street children – orphans, those who have families but have left their homes for some reason and those who come to the streets due to financial crisis.
According to a rough estimate, there are more than 0.25 million orphan children who sleep on footpaths in Karachi, said Ahmed. Initially, the project was started for children of five areas – Jahangir Park, Hyperstar, Sea View, Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s mazar and Cantt Station. “We sent our teams to these places and asked them to observe what these kids were doing,” explained Ahmed. “Some were selling books, some were begging while some were clicking pictures to earn money at Sea View.”
After the first phase of the programme, DevCon has succeeded in enrolling at least 13 children in schools. “The number is small but the will is high and it shows that we can make more enrollments in the coming years,” said Ahmed.
Talking about the reason for supporting this cause and helping with the resources and venue, Yousuf Bashir Qureshi from Commune Artist Colony said, “If we do not work for street children now, it will affect us some day.”
There is no reason to not support this cause but the majority of the people don’t because these street children are not harming them, he said. “People will start thinking and working when they get hurt and face the problem.”
Theatre for street children
Six local theatre artists under the banner, ‘Sujaat Jaan’, presented the dark side of the picture to the street children on the issues and problems they face in their daily lives. The play revolved around a boy who does not have a house to live and has nothing to eat, while people around him always beat him and treat him badly. A group of people realise the importance of his life and hand him over to a shelter home where he studies and transforms into a responsible citizen of the country.
A resident of Korangi, 15-year-old Muhammad Aqib has the same story, where due to lack of money he used to beg and collect trash to earn bread and butter for his family of 11 people. “One day I was near Cantt Station when the DevCon programme director met me and asked me what I do and what I want to do in the future,” he said. Today, Aqib works at a shop and also has some basic education. “I am happy that I did not end up like others. I am earning money and learning, too.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2015.