Today’s children are tomorrow’s youth [Archives:2007/1037/Community]

March 29 2007

By: Maged Thabet Al-Kholidy
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According to the latest statistics, approximately 35,000 Yemeni children ages 12-14 seek refuge on the streets for work and, sometimes, residence. There, they not only feed themselves their daily bread, but also their morals, customs and habits. If this is the case for today's children, what will their tomorrow be in coming years in the youth age?

A proverb may best answer this question. It says: “Tell about any nation's children in order to narrate its past, describe its present and foresee its future.” The past is gone, so let's be concerned with the present and its future. Actually, if we find practical solutions in the present, there will be no need to redeem the future.

There might be circumstances that force Yemeni children to leave home and school without knowing the consequences. All they know is that the streets, working or wasting time there is an escape from their family problems or obligations.

Actually, they aren't to be blamed; rather, their parents are to blame. Yemeni society also plays a role and must be blamed too. Moreover, it looms in my mind that the authorities also share in this human catastrophe, as absence of government efforts increases the number of such children living outside the home. If no sincere efforts are made to discover the reason for this phenomenon, who will look after them and their only heard about rights?

Life is full of difficulties leading Yemeni children to the streets. Some are responsible for their families, while others are asked by their parents to search for work and make money with no regard for the way it's collected. Family problems also play a role in causing children to leave home, live far away or enjoy their time outside. Others have their own dreams and ambitions, which think they'll achieve through that way.

In an interview published in Al-Jumhuriya, issue no. 13596, a 14-year-old boy said he came from his village with friends to search for work to earn money for his mother and four sisters after their father's death. Two 12-year-old brothers said they clean cars for money to give their father for qat and cigarettes every day. A little girl the same age said she leaves home every day to stay on the streets as an escape from the daily problems and shouting between her parents. Another 10-year-old child works and sometimes begs on the street as the only way to fulfill his ambition of buying a new suit.

However, there are worse cases than these. Working and making money by working in such circumstances may be accepted, but I think the situation is more dangerous. What happened in Egypt clearly exemplifies the dangers that may result. Egyptian police caught three gang members suspected of killing 183 street children after forcing them into homosexuality. Such children are easy targets for crimes of any kind.

The other side of the danger is what children learn on the streets and the experiences they have from contacting younger or older individuals there. It's rare to find street children who aren't the victims of others or being criminals themselves. We can say: “Today's victims are tomorrow's criminals.” However, it's actually silly to accuse them of being criminals because they grew up as victims. A serious attempt to solve this problem must look into the reasons for it so it can be redeemed radically.

The abovementioned children's circumstances and the dire consequences in which they find themselves in the end actually acquit them of responsibility. However, it doesn't forgive the responsible parties, beginning with the family, society and relevant authorities for their “honest silence” as they fail to respond to such a critical problem.

However, the real danger occurs when such children reach the age of youth. Thus, it's better to solve it earlier, bearing in mind that “today's children are tomorrow's youth,” and then accordingly, it will be easier to find its radical redemption through the mind's eye.

Majed Thabet Al-kholidy is a 26 year old writer from Taiz, currently doing his M.A. at English Dep, Taiz Uni. An ex-editor of Eng. Journal of the Uni.