This child, as old as 9 or 10 years maybe sitting barefoot on the road, with his small bouquets of flowers in his hand, and sadness in his eyes. While I enjoyed being on the beach with my friends, slurping my ice cream, my heart ached at the sight of unfair this world really is.
In the streets of Pakistan, a heart-wrenching reality unfolds, the plight of street children. Often orphaned, abandoned, or forced to flee challenging circumstances, these innocent souls find themselves navigating a world of hardship and uncertainty. Stripped of the care and protection they deserve, they are left vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and the harsh realities of life on the streets. Lacking access to education, healthcare, and even basic necessities, they endure the relentless struggle for survival.
Their childhood dreams fade amidst the struggle for a morsel of food and a place to rest their weary heads. As a society, we must confront this grave issue, advocating for comprehensive solutions that provide these children with the care, love, and opportunities they deserve. Only then can we hope to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability that perpetuates the heartbreaking plight of street children in Pakistan?
According to an estimate, a total of 1.2 million to 15 million children in Pakistan are street children, with more than 0.2 million on the streets of Karachi. However, this figure is not authentic because, since 1998, there has been no census in Pakistan. No one has collected any primary data in this regard. But why do children end up on the streets?
This is due to a variety of factors. Children leave their families after arguments, natural catastrophes, internal strife, terrorism, the death of a family member, poverty, psychological issues, and the negative influence of other kids. Most kids who flee their homes grow up as street kids. Large cities like Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Multan, Faisalabad, and Hyderabad are where these youngsters end up. Since there is no strict ticket checking in Pakistan’s railway system, traveling by train is an easy option for runaway youngsters. In the beginning, runaway children frequently used buses and trucks, but as law enforcement began inspecting buses, bus drivers ceased to assist runaway children.
Pakistan is a signatory to the UNCRC Child Rights Convention, Article 20 of which clearly defines the rights of street children: “A child who is temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to protection and assistance provided by the state.” Moreover, the Sindh Children Act 1955, Section 49 has prohibited the employment of children in the drug trade, begging, and other illegal and tedious acts, which may not be suitable for a child.
Even though the idea seems far-fetched in our country, the issue of street children has a very simple, practical solution: education. Anyone in need has free, simple, and direct access to education as well as safe housing on the school grounds.