Can you imagine asking 200,000 questions to 40,000,000 people? This might seem impossible. Meet Dr. Manu Chandaria, Kenyan Industrialist who is currently the leading advocate for the plight and rights of street children in Kenya. I met him and his brother at International Day for Street Children on 12.04.2014 at St. Teresa’s Girls Secondary School. This day has been set aside for ‘giving voice to street children so their rights cannot be ignored.
Globally it is estimated that there are 100 million street children who live and work on the streets under very difficult circumstance however debate abound about the figures. But one thing is certainly is clear, the number of street children have been raising and more importantly street families especially in Kenya. Kenya is estimated to have between 200,000 – 300,000 street children. To witness the problem in Nairobi, one needs to walk around Globe Cinema Roundabout either in the morning or evening.
There are only two people in Kenya, late Fr. Arnold Grol and Dr. Manu Chandaria who have dedicated time and resources to help street children passionately and genuinely. Dr. Manu Chandaria speaks about street children with ease and one would easily conclude him to be an expert in this field.
The usual picture of street children in Kenya is that of dirty clothes, glue sniffing, unruly, rough and hunger. But behind all these, we have normal human beings who are positive about life. I attended the celebration to the mark the International Day for Street Children and had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Manu Chandaria ask, “What can 40 million Kenyans do to address the plight of 200,000, street children? For Dr. Manu Chandaria OBE & OBS, a famous industrialist he sees potential in street children and that is why during the event, he mingled so easily with the street children.
Dr. Manu Chandaria would like to see an environment where street children are treated with dignity and facilitated to be part of wider society since he believes that they have potential to make a positive contribution in making Kenya a better place.
I spoke to more than 50 street children from different ‘bases’ and they all expressed desire to live in a decent environment where they can access education, training, medical care and jobs. Some Non Governmental Organizations have managed to organize themselves to provide services such as vocational skills training, health, food, clothing and shelter but this is not enough. While the problem of street children is a worldwide concern, our government can do better to address problems faced by 300,000 who live in inhuman condition. If we can invest billions for roads, railways and drilling oil in Turkana then what about investing in our own children? The 47 County Governments in Kenya can be pushed to allocate special funds to address issues related to street children.
Street children problem is human problem which can only be solved by human beings. If Kenya had so many Dr. Manu Chandaria then we would have been able to provide decent life to our children on the street.
Children in Mathare smile and laugh not because of ignorance but because they have inner peace which the rich and powerful cannot even buy. Playing and dreaming for a better future is all what preoccupy their minds. I once visited a local school and when I asked children what they want to be in future, nobody mention wanting to be a criminal or police. Why? Lets finds the reason later.- Simon