By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
October 9, 2012 (BENTIU) - The number of street children in Bentiu town and Rubkotna County is continuing to increase, despite the Unity State Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare, Innocent Lazarus Latjor, unveiled a plan in September to assist 83 street children.
- Map of South Sudan’s Unity State.
A month on the Minister said that the number appears to have increased further to around 100. The main cause, the street children told Sudan Tribune, was that their parents abandoned them as they were too poor to provide for them.
In Kalibalek market children as young eight drink alcohol, petrol and other intoxicants, such as Gatwich Laat Chap,who joined the street children two months ago.
Chap told Sudan Tribune that since he started living in the market the other children encouraged him to drink petrol. Dispute it making him ill at first, now he says that drinking petrol makes him feel "wonderful".
Some of the street children say that their parents forced them to leave their homes. Chuol Both, 10, left his home in Koch County after his mother threatened to throw him out of the family house accusing him of steeling money.
“I was forced to leave the house, after my mother accused me of stealing 25 SSP [around $8] in the family, she threaten to beat me, that is why I decided to go”, Taban said.
In Unity State child labour is common, with many children walking the dusty roads looking for customers, for shoe polishing, selling goods from wheelbarrows, as well as bread and sweets to earn for living.
South Sudan’s transition constitution say’s that child labour is not encouraged in the young nation but the law is not being implemented.
Tebuom Mead Jiech, 14, polishes shoes so he can afford his school fees. Only 27% of South Sudanese are literate. A legacy of the civil war, underinvestment before the war ended in 2005, lack of qualified teachers and facilities, and a high level of school drop outs, especially among girls.
The standard of life for people in Unity State has dropped considerably since South Sudan’s oil shut down in January as part of a dispute with neighbouring Sudan. After a new deal last month production is expected resume in two to three months.
The shut has triggered rampant inflation on prices and other goods, especially in states that border Sudan, as it has been closed for trade for well over a year. However, Sudan’s president Bashir announced this week that the border would be reopened after a security agreement was reached in Addis Ababa.
It will take sometime for this to have an impact on the economy though and many people in Unity State go to work on an empty stomach as they cannot afford to eat.
James Mathiang Ruei, a who teaches at primary and secondary schools in Bentiu town says it is shameful that there are so many street children in the state capitall.
He called on the government allocate resources to help street children and build boarding schools where they can live and attend school.
“We urge the government to make some boarding Schools so that they can learn and they need to be managed how their future will be. Secondly we urged the NGO’s domestic organization and even international organization to build some school for those street boys”, said Ruei.
He added that there is need to carry out a survey to find out why so many children live on the streets of town like Bentiu and Rubkotna, as not all of them are orphans he said.
Unity State’s Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, Innocent Lazarus Latjor, said in September that 93 children were found on the streets up from 83 recorded in July.
The Minister has submitted a proposal to non-governmental organizations (NGO) and the state government to build two children’s centres providing accommodation and schooling facilities for the destitute children. But as yet nothing has been achieved and the levels of street children continue to increase.