As South Sudan joins the world in celebrating World Children’s Day today, underage who described themselves as “hustlers” have resorted to selling empty plastic bottles to provide food on the table for their grown-up siblings, parents and relatives.
Today’s global theme is ” Investing in our future means investing in our children,” but such investments are a far-cry for the children of South Sudan –more so – kids from destitute families living in towns like Juba, Wau, Aweil, Malakal, Bor, Kapoeta, Torit, among others.
Across the country, it is easier to spot street and homeless children on major roads and restaurants looking for means to survive.
In Juba, you can find these children carrying empty plastic bottles –mainly of mineral water– which they intend on selling to generate some money for food.
One of them is Juma Wani.
“I used to collect this water bottle and resell them to some shop to be used for filling oil and juice,” he told Eye Radio at the busy 7-Day roundabout in Juba.
Juma told Eye Radio he is 14-years old who lost his father and is now living with his mother and brothers.
“We gain like SSP 600 or SSP 1000, and I share it with my family. I have a brother here, we are doing the same job.”
He says he had to drop out of school because his family couldn’t pay his school fees.
A survey conducted by the Consortium for Street Children found that child ‘streetism’ in South Sudan was only emerging but growing at an alarming rate.
It discovered the possible factors to include; war-induced displacement, family disruption, economic constraints, mistreatment at home, lack of access to education and child-related behavioural factors.
10-year old Lado James resorted to hustling as a result of a disrupted family and economic hardship.
He told Eye Radio that he never been to school because he said his mom doesn’t have a job.
“My father is living in the village and used to sell 24 pieces for SSP 150,” a shabby-looking Lado said.
As per the Declaration of the Rights of Child, children like Juma Wani and Lado James deserve the right to protection, education, health care, shelter, and good nutrition.
The society is also expected to expand children’s opportunities in life.
But Lado mentioned that his mother depends on him to make enough money to feed their family.
“I use that money for bringing food on the table,” he said.
Lado is, however, still hopeful that one day he will be able to go to school.
The children who spoke to Eye Radio in Juba described themselves as ‘hustlers’ who are unable to improve their lives because there is no time and no money for school and other basic things.
World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is celebrated on 20 November each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide.
This day is aimed at improving the welfare of children like Juma and Lado.
According to the Consortium for Street Children, although international declarations upholding children’s rights for survival and development were already enshrined in the domestic laws and policies of South Sudan, the reality on the ground appears to depict that scores of children in streets are as yet most marginalized and least investigated.
But the UN notes that millions of children around the world are denied a fair chance for no reason other than the country, gender or circumstances into which they are born.
The UN Children’s agency, UNICEF has warned that if efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not accelerated, 9 out of 10 children living in extreme poverty will live in sub-Saharan Africa and that the children in sub-Saharan Africa will be 16 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children in high-income countries.
It further stated that more than 60 million primary school-aged children will be out of school – roughly the same number as are out of school today -more than half will be from sub-Saharan Africa.
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