High levels of poverty, domestic violence and land evictions are among the factors capping in the proliferating child labour cases and early marriages in Hoima District and street kids in Hoima City, authorities observe.
The East Division Community Development Officer in Hoima city, Ms Susan Wandega Nafuna, discloses that approximately 600 children are notably on various streets of Hoima city either hawking foodstuffs, employed in bars and milling machines or being recruited by scrap dealers among others.
She reveals that those employed by scrap dealers first give them sniff drugs and smoke marijuana so they can become aggressive while stealing metal and plastic scrap from the community.
The CDO adds that when approached, street children say they flee the violence at home and land eviction as they are deprived of places of aboard ending up on the streets to look for survival through doing petty jobs and also engaging in antisocial acts like drug abuse to empower them commit crimes in form of boosting people’s businesses and eking out a living.
Ms Nafuna says such scenarios ruin the children’s future since they do not go to school and inculcate ad morals in them, thus, becoming a security threat to the community.
The Hoima East Division Resident City Commissioner (RCC), Mr William Donanto Kasigazi, says some of the street kids end up on the streets of Hoima city after coming from places outside Bunyoro expecting to get jobs on the grounds that the area has oil deposits but end up being jobless resorting to streets.
He is concerned that land evictions in the Bunyoro region are forcing children to flee to streets and also marry at a young age since a good number of them are living in internally displaced people’s camps where social life mainly features moral degeneration.
Mr Kasigazi also attributes the increasing number of street kids to parents and guardians who neglect their children by not providing them with scholastic materials adding that even when they realise that they are missing from home, they neither report to the authorities nor look for them.
He says, on being arrested during operations, most of the street children say they hail from camps of internally displaced persons and parents do not follow them up at the police that ends up releasing them since they are underage.
The Kyabigambire Sub-county Local Government Chairman, Mr Alex Mwesigwa, says the rampant street kids is a result of domestic violence and land evictions given that many people in Bunyoro have been left poor after being deprived of their land rights which sends kids to streets.
According to him, single mothers are burdened with a lot of responsibilities after their husbands abandoning them while other women produce many children at their parents’ homes and cannot fend for them to a certain better standard since they too, are single mothers.
Mr Christopher Mwesige, the Kiryateete East Village Health Team (VHT) worker, says he receives somewhat a big number of street kids in need of tablets to treat malaria contracted for sleeping in the open where they are exposed to mosquito bites.
In Hoima city, some of the street kids sleep in groundnut and coffee husks at Kiryateete industrial area and many know them as petty thieves and pickpockets.
Rose Busiinge, 17, says she became a street child at the age of 14 when she was in senior one because whenever she asked her mother for scholastic materials, she could always tell her to get some means of getting them since she was poor.
“I came from Kyabigambire sub-county to Hoima city streets because my mother did not have money to buy me exercise books. My mother used to change schools for me without any books and notes. Even teachers could ask me why I used to go to school when I did not have books and notes. That annoyed me, and I came to Hoima city streets looking for survival,” Busiinge said.
Adding: “When I came to the street, life changed for the worse since I survive on the little money I get from people who call me to wash their clothes or clean their houses and give me lunch in turn. I use the little money I get to buy some basic needs as a girl. Men harass me so much and I don’t have a permanent place of abode.”
Busiinge says she is ready to go back to school if someone offers her that opportunity.
“But if I happen to get a Good Samaritan to take me back to school, I can go back.”
Julius Andama, another street kid, says he went to the street following a misunderstanding with her mother who used to return home drunk every day late at night and started unsettling them.
He says the Shs3,000 he earns from scrap selling is used to buy breakfast, lunch and supper.
“We pass through a lot of challenges on the street since we deal in collecting scrap. When one picks up someone’s metallic object, they chase us away like a thief. If we don’t run away, the residents beat you up like a thief,” Andama narrates.
“We don’t have any house where to sleep. We normally sleep in groundnut husks at Kiryateete industrial area but we encounter a lot of challenges like being called thieves.”
Andama, too, says given any opportunity, he can go back to school since he is still young. Though he does not reveal the class from which he dropped, he says his academic journey was cut short due to financial constraints.
Mr Vincent Muhumuza, a parent of Kabaale village in Kabaale sub-county, Hoima district urges parents to play their role and guide their children so that they can be better citizens.
Following such a scenario, Mr Christopher Mwesige, the Kiryateete East Cell VHT, says “the government should come out with a plan of taking street children to vocation institutions for skilling in different fields and also give them startup capital on completion because these are Ugandans suffering on streets.”
Hoima East Division Deputy Resident City Commissioner, Mr William Kasigazi, says as leaders, they are looking for a lasting solution for school age going street children so that they can be encouraged to go back school.
The East Division Community Development Officer in Hoima city, Ms Susan Wandega Nafuna, says the concerned authorities conduct sensitisation campaigns advising people to embrace government financial programmes so that they can relatively fight poverty from their homes to avoid their children going to streets for survival.
However, she says many parents do not bother attending those government and non-government conducted sensitisation campaigns, thus, their kids turning into street children and even being subjected to child labour.