AN ancient African proverb says it takes a whole village to raise a child, which means the responsibility of raising a child does not lie in the parents alone, but also with the extended family and in some cases the whole community.
Most Africans can easily identify with this school of thought because we have always cherished the extended family system.
Some very important persons in our society are a product of the extended family system because they were taken in by families other than their biological parents.
It was common in the not too distant past to have been educated by an uncle or even a neighbour following the death of one's parents.
It is rather unfortunate that this cultural system is now at risk of extinction following the social changes that society is going through.
Africans have now embraced the nuclear family system where orphaned children are left to fend for themselves.
And even most tragic is that even aged parents have become inmates at homes for the aged, which was unheard of among Africans and Zambians in particular.
Terminologies such as orphan or 'street kids' are now a common feature in our daily conversations.
Instead of being moved by scenes of begging children on the streets, it has become normal to walk past such children and even shoo them away in an irritable manner.
There is need to go back to the drawing board as a society and reclaim our culture which is under threat in the name of modernisation.
As President Rupiah Banda said yesterday at a prize giving ceremony for a girl's shelter fundraising tournament in Lusaka, it is imperative that youths and children are cared for and provided with love for them to realise their full potential.
It is unfortunate that orphaned children are being forced to run away from their guardians' homes due to physical, emotional and sexual abuse that they suffer at the hands of people who are supposed to be caring for them.
The streets they flee to for solace do not provide an enabling environment for their development but rather worsen their predicament as they are exposed to harsh environments where drug abuse and other social vices are rife.
We salute non-governmental organisations such as Thulami's Girls' Shelter that have come up with initiatives to offer shelter to such abused children, providing them a semblance of a stable home environment.
They deserve support from Government and the private sector because they are providing a service that society at an individual level has failed to offer.