Rwanda: New Study Sheds Light On Factors Pushing Children Into the Streets

The National Rehabilitation Service (NRS) is finalising comprehensive research on the magnitude of delinquency, the role of the community and the impact of rehabilitation centres.

The study aims to inform new decisions and policies that will help the country achieve its ambitious target of getting children off the streets.

Preliminary findings of the study point fingers at parents who have given up their responsibility of caring for their children, which has led to the rise in the number of street kids and delinquents.

Commenting on the study, ACP Gilbert Gumira, the Acting Director-General of NRS, said that there is a worrying rise in the consumption of alcohol, especially among young people, as well as continued use of recreational drugs.

These, he said, were part of the drivers of delinquency and street children.

"Some other respondents in the study claimed that poverty is what pushed them into delinquency, but then, every poor person doesn't end up in the street, every poor person doesn't end up stealing," added Gumira.

He suspects that the young people who indulge in delinquency include those who do not want to "struggle, to work hard."

The study involves 405 participants sampled from government-sponsored and private rehabilitation centres as well as those who passed through the process.

It was found out that the majority of the delinquents did not complete primary education.

Researchers have also found out that labelling and stigmatisation of former delinquents, as well as street children, are still pressing issues in the community.

In addition, the number of qualified psychologists is still very low, which means that some rehabilitation centres don't have psychotherapists.

Among categories of delinquents who are taken to rehabs and transit centres are drug abusers, street vendors and children as well as street beggars.

The number of street children can fall to zero

According to Gumira, on May 20 this year more than 1,100 children were rounded up from Kigali streets and returned to their families.

At least 130 of them returned to the street, he added.

Contrary to the general belief that most of the street children in Kigali came from the countryside, the study found that over 90 per cent of them have both their parents living together in the capital.

Gumira said there was a significant decrease in the number of street children during the Covid-19 lockdown, adding that it is indeed possible to bring it down to zero.

The difference is noticeable especially after the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted.

In this regard, children will no longer be taken through transit centres, nor will they be escorted back to their families by security personnel, as it used to be, oftentimes.

Gumira argued that the move used to make the whole process look like a 'crisis' rather than rehabilitation.

Instead, the institution will establish direct link with children's families and local communities to ensure quick communication and harmonize psychological treatment.

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