The Ghetto City

Proposed Project: #StreetChildGhetto

Some children in a day center with Caritas- 2005

Dr. Nagwa Khalil, Minister of the Insurance and Social Affairs, announced at the end of August 2012 that 17 million EGP (approximately $3 million) would be allocated for the development of 4 cities for street children. These cities will be self-sustainable cities…of children.

Laughable, but incredibly frightening.

Can you imagine 2,000 street children in cities that were made only for them? Who are these kids anyway, and why would this be a bad idea?

STREET CHILDREN are the vulnerable of society. They have lost their families, or left their families. They usually have suffered abuse, abandonment, disease, hunger, sexual violence, criminal violence, dependency on drugs, and a lack of love.

The only thing that they have is their FREEDOM. They don’t trust easily and they don’t give that freedom up easily. They paid a price for that freedom and whether they chose to put themselves in this position of vulnerability or not, they will never just throw away their only possession. 

So with this in mind, let us look back to the solution offered by the Egyptian government. One friend termed it the “Ghetto City” for street children. One can understand the desire to set up a place for these kids, a place where they wouldn’t be on the street.

BUT a #ghettocity is not the solution. On the contrary, it can easily become a perpetuation of the problem. Seemingly the only goal is to get those kids, out of sight and out of mind. If they are not on the streets, the problem will look, well…less problematic, and this can be accomplished without the hours of work that is required to deal with the REAL problem.

While some laws exist to protect street children, they historically have been treated as criminals, outcasts, and thieves. They are rounded up on the streets, sometimes murdered, sometimes arrested, abused, and placed into adult criminal institutions.

They cannot go to school since schools need a plethora of documentation that they don’t have. The orphanages are not what they want and simply aren’t sufficient. The NGO’s don’t have enough support and are not efficient enough to actually invest in change. Adoption is illegal, social worker salaries are low, and parental education and birth control is unheard of.

Alone.

FINANCIALLY this is also not a wise use of they money. If this ministry can afford to allocate all that money just for street children, then that money should be put to use to reform, improve, develop, and increase the already existing NGOs, organizations, government programs, and education systems that need this money desperately.

Alternative SOLUTIONS are difficult though.

  • Parental Education– Babies are just a part of life. One grows up, goes to school, gets a job (or possibly not), gets married, has children, sends them off to school, etc. Little thought is put into how to raise the children and we find ourselves in a dangerous cycle. Families that are too poor to even feed themselves are also the most likely to have more children, and it is these children that are most likely to run off from home since their home environment is far from nourishing.
  • Adoption– Yes, I know it is illegal, and I know that there are Quranic reasons as to why, but I strongly oppose this policy. When good families cannot have children, and bad families are pouring them into the streets, it is nationally irresponsible to prevent these children from finding a home that will be a place of nurture and education. A least foster homes should be considered.
  • NGO Development- The NGO environments are dismal. Firstly, social work is looked down on as a career and in general most people think that it is impossible to find decent jobs. The career itself offers no decent salary for anyone to live off of and this leads to so few people who actually want to work in these jobs. Oftentimes people do minimal work, or they burn out from exhaustion and being overworked. This phenomena is normal even in Western countries, it is not new information.
  • Implementation of laws- The police force needs reform. This was one of the core causes of the revolution, police brutality. Unfortunately, it is the last thing that we will see change soon. With a majority of our police under-educated, and a serious and negative social stigma against street children, many of us wonder how we can pressure the whole internal security apparatus to change its mode of operation against our most vulnerable segment of society. However, to deal with the problem of street children it is one of the first things that must happen.

For a plan as proposed by the Ministry to succeed, it needs a clear and transparent plan as to how and why it will be successful. Had they consulted with the NGOs and people who have invested their lives for these children, they would have heard that it is not a good idea. Sadly, most organizations were not informed but instead, they found out through the news.

Our children are our future. They need to be nourished and educated. They need to be loved and cared for. They need to be given the opportunity to thrive and think, to be creative, and to dream. I can only hope and try.


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