For child beggars, there is nothing like school. From day to day, week to week, months running into years, the routine is the same: begging along highways despite the inherent risks and hazards.
Begging has become a widespread profession in many developing countries. Some adults beg because it is an easier way of earning money while others resort to begging because they genuinely need help. Disabled adults often beg with their children because they do not have the means for medical treatment.
Street begging deprives children of education and undermines their future opportunities. Study after study has shown the link between education and poverty reduction; without an education child beggars are trapped in a life of poverty and suffering. The only way these children can escape from the poverty is by receiving a good education.
Parents of child beggars often raise objections about their children attending school since this means that no income would be generated from them. Therefore to rescue children from begging, programmes should be tailored to meet the needs of each family.
Some ways to rescue children from begging include:
– Launching informational campaigns. In nations where children beg by tradition, informational campaigns about the benefits of education can change the mindset of families.
– Setting up literacy classes for child beggars, with the consent of their parents, in squatter camps and beggars’ encampments. Attending classes, in whatever, surroundings can help children start the process of rehabilitation. Such classes can also motivate parents to allow their children to attend school.
– Supporting parents of child beggars with payment of school fees, uniforms and school supplies.
– Helping child beggars also entails empowering their parents and guardians. However this help should not stay at the simple stage of food handouts, which increases dependence. It must go beyond and encourage responsibility and productivity so that they become self-sufficient to help their children. Parents can be trained to start small businesses and helped to secure loans to start an income-generating activity. The goal is to help the victims of poverty back on their own two feet, where they can, in turn, help their children.
It is often reported that some parents actually maim or mutilate their own children to make them more pitiful, and therefore effective, in begging. Laws should be passed to prosecute parents and other adults who force, rent out, or allow children to beg. Since children are unable to articulate and fight for their rights, they need adults to recognise, respect and vindicate their rights.
The overarching concern is to discourage the public from delivering free alms to child beggars. Rather than give alms to the children, resources should be directed towards their rehabilitation.
The goal is to help each child develop into a productive member of his community through education, vocational training and life skills development.