Blantyre — Chisomo Children's Club of Blantyre has asked government to expedite the implementation of the 2010 Child Care, Protection and Justice Act to force parents to take full responsibility of their wards irrespective of their economic status.
Chisomo Children's Club Centre Manager for Blantyre, Auspicious Ndamuwa, made the call in an interview with Malawi News Agency (Mana) after observing that the number of begging street children and those dropping out of school continues to rise in the city.
Ndamuwa attributed the sad development to lack of parental care.
He said it was disheartening that cases of child abandonment were fast becoming a common phenomenon, a trend he said needed to be reversed.
"A number of parents are forcing their children to go to the streets to beg while they stay at home waiting for the children to bring home basic necessities," he alleged.
"On average, every month we used to take in 18 or 19 children from the streets but now the number has increased to 25 and this has come about because many children are flocking to the streets to beg. We are registering about 300 children annually, which is alarming," he said.
The Chisomo Club Centre manager pointed out that all the children under their care cite poverty, negligence and parental poverty as main drivers of their situation. He said only a few children find themselves in the streets due to other circumstances like orphanhood and marriage breakups.
"It is against this background that we call upon government to hasten the implementation of the 2010 Child Care, Protection and Justice Act so that parents or guardians take responsibility of their children and promote all child rights," he said.
Speaking a separate interview with MANA, Eye of the Child Executive Director, Maxwell Matewere concurred with Ndamuwa, saying it was true the number of children dropping out of school and going into the streets was growing.
"I would like to agree with the findings based on experience that most of the children who have been rescued from the streets tell different stories. We will soon launch a program with support from KNH International to help government develop sustainable responses which, if adopted, will safeguard children's rights," Matewere said.
In her reaction, Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare spokesperson, Lucy Bandazi, agreed with the suggestion by Chisomo Children's Club on expediting the implementation of the Act, saying the ministry has since put in place measures to make parents understand their responsibilities over their children.
"The ministry wishes to inform people that the primary care for the support of the child is with the biological parents. Each parent has an obligation to care for children and this is mandatory. Government has enforcement measures for parents who fail to take care of their children," Bandazi said.
She said government, through the Ministry of Gender, would promote positive parenting skills considering that most children trek to the streets due to family problems like broken marriages, divorce and conflicts in the home among other reasons.
"At the moment, government has an initiative called 'Re-integration of children from child care institutions'. It focuses on discouraging institutionalisation of children to community based care which has a lot of options including adoption, extended families and foster care," she said.
The 2010 Child Care, Protection and Justice Act is a piece of legislation which aims at dealing with all parents and guardians who fail to take proper care of children by abandoning them to fetch for basic needs on their own while the parents are still alive and able bodied.