Parents making children vulnerable

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A FAMILY, on holiday from England, were walking through Stabroek where they saw a young boy (aged about nine) selling on the roadside. The mother turned to her son, who was about the same age and said, ’You see that little boy, he’s around your age and he is selling fruit for a living, if he doesn’t sell, he doesn’t eat; I want you to remember this and realise how privileged you are.’ Although morally, she aimed to teach her son a lesson, basically the little boy should not have been on the road selling in the first place. This is child exploitation; In Guyana it is against the law for children to be selling, begging or finding any other way to acquire funds from the public. Providing for children is an adult’s responsibility.

When children are sent out to sell goods or beg, or wash car windscreens, sell water to motorists, or take people’s weight, they are being exploited. This is not what ‘children’ should be doing; fending for themselves is not part of a healthy or productive childhood. The Ministry of Social Protection has measures in place to help families who are in need of assistance.

So, when you see a child begging or being used in any of the ways mentioned above, call the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) Hotline and make a report (227 0979). By doing this you will be helping to put an end to the problem, by being part of the solution. Many people do not see a problem with children begging, they feel, because they do not know the child’s circumstances they should not judge, but give willingly; but the mere fact that we do not ‘know’ the child’s circumstances is the main reason why we should not give.
When a child is begging, there is usually an adult somewhere in the background living off the proceeds, or encouraging (forcing or even threatening) the child to go out and beg. The more the child receives from begging, the more the child will be sent to beg. When a child is made to live like this as part of his/her childhood, what type of adult will he/she grow into? Remembering of course that our childhood is the foundation on which our adulthood is formed: how is a child meant to grow into a worthy, confident and productive individual when during his/her childhood, he/she learnt to beg for what he/she needed. What type of self-esteem or sense of self-worth will that child have as an adolescent or an adult?
But this is what some adults do; they have children and then pave a negative path for them to follow from childhood into adulthood, and this is why we have the Child Protection Agency Act, (2009) in order to help these children (and their families, if they comply) to venture down a more favourable and constructive avenue, for a beneficial outcome.

The CPA has managed to help many families in this way over the years. There are cases where children have been taken off the streets and placed in an environment where they are able to attend school, eat three meals a day and make some valuable progress in their development. Families too have worked alongside the CPA to provide better facilities and means for their children, so they could stay together. There is of course, along with successes, some failures, because for some people, putting their children to beg on the streets is a way of life and regardless of what the CPA says or does, ultimately they just go somewhere else and continue to exploit their children.

The worst thing about having children selling or begging on the streets is the level of vulnerability to which they are being exposed. Who knows when they might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and cross paths with a paedophile who might drag them into his/her van and take them away? Predators come in different shapes and forms, even adults are fooled by seemingly ‘nice’ adults, therefore children who are begging or selling, could easily be beguiled or fooled into doing ‘something’ for money, that could cost them their lives. In Guyana, it is so easy to speak about all the things that are wrong, but when we get a chance to put things right, let us take it. DO THE RIGHT THING: DO NOT ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO SELL OR BEG ON OUR STREETS by giving them your patronage.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the Childcare and Protection Hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com

A message from the Childcare and Protection Agency, Ministry of Social Protection