When will street children’s misery end?

Tahmid’s mother Mariam Begum passed away while giving birth to his sister Antara. Their father Murad Hossain, a drug addict rickshaw-puller, lost his ties with family at the time. Their grandmother Hasina Khatun brought up both the siblings.
Khatun enrolled Tahmid in a school this year, but Tahmid did not like it. He began roaming on the streets with other children. Just like his father, he ended up living under the open sky. He currently lives at the Central Shaheed Minar premises.

Thousands of children in Dhaka live in the rail stations, bus terminals and outside the stadiums in Dhaka. Losing their ties with the families due to different socio-economic troubles, these children are deprived of a proper childhood. They are known as ‘street children.’

According to a 2004 survey by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies or BIDS, the country had at least 1.3 million street children at that time.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and the Department of Social Services refuted the survey, though they have not done one by themselves.

Five years have passed after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave specific directives to the ministry for the rehabilitation of the street children at the inauguration of World Child Rights Week 2015. The ministry and Dhaka City Corporation have established the rehabilitation centres for the street children, but the initiatives have proved unsuccessful.

No efforts to resolve the issue will be fruitful without a long-term plan, believe top officials of the organisations working for the street children.

The ministry has now bolstered its strategy after long. It has sent proposed projects to the Ministry of Planning.

CHILDREN DEPRIVED OF LOVE

It was a quiet afternoon when he was selling flowers near the Teacher-Student Centre in Dhaka University. Four-year-old Emon said he had no proper place to live in. His father died long ago, while his mother married another man.

“I have no home. I used to live with my grandparents at a slum in Mirpur. They could not help me anymore and I began to live on the streets. Now I live in this park,” the boy said.

The parents of Afrin (not her real name) got divorced when she was 10. When her grandfather died after another year, she and her grandmother moved from one place to another for a living. The 14-year-old and her grandmother now lives in the Shaheed Minar area.

“I could not keep her from spoiling," sighed Afrin’s grandmother. Living on the streets for long brought an adverse effect to Afrin’s life. She became a sex worker and also got addicted to drugs.

The father of Russel lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic and began working as a farm worker in Tangail’s Gopalpur, but his income was not enough to feed his three children.

“I have two younger sisters who don’t get a square meal per day. One day a senior friend asked me to go to Dhaka and we travelled by train. He promised to give me a job, but never did. I got a temporary job in a garage but not anymore. Now I need a job. I won’t go back home without a job,” the 13-year-old boy said.