The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
March 30, 2006
Posted to the web March 30, 2006
AT a time when street children are renowned for perpetrating violence, 14-year-old Kennedy Kamanga of Lusaka should be a privileged boy to have left the streets and gone back to school.
Kennedy who lives with his two young brothers, a sister and an ailing mother in Kalingalinga township, is currently doing grade seven at Kalingalinga basic school and has vowed never to abandon school until his dream is fulfilled.
"I have gone back to school because I want to become a doctor some day," says the boy whose father died in 2001 before relatives descended on the hapless family to grab the property.
"When my father died, his relatives grabbed all our property and we were chased out of the house and I went to stay with my mother’s elder sister. This is because my mother had to go to the village with my young sister and brothers."
While at his aunt’s place, he was mistreated, beaten regularly and being forced to do household chores on an empty stomach. At times, he only had one meal in a day while the rest of the family members could have three meals per day.
"Because of mistreatment, I stopped school and I had no uniforms and no money to pay for my school fees. Hence, I decided to join my friends in the streets because they assured me that out there, a haven is provided for street kids with people giving money and food."
Kabulonga shopping complex in Lusaka was his place of refuge. There, he learnt survival skills. Everytime he saw someone walking out of the complex with a trolley of groceries, he would stretch his arms while maintaining a solemn expression on his face. Then the Good Samaritan would drop either food or money in his hands before walking off.
Tired and dirty from the endless food hunting missions, the night would come when shelter was needed.
There was nowhere the poor boy could lay his weary body as the fear of street life gripped him. He had no choice but to trot back to his aunt’s place despite the mistreatment.
He still remembers how hard street life was. Especially the beatings from the elder boys who got into the habit of grabbing things from the smaller boys.
Street life could be incomplete without one being introduced to the infamous sniffing of substances like glue in dirty bottles or sniffing dried human excretes in bottles. To this vice, Kennedy was not spared.
"After some months, my mother came back with my brothers and sisters. They found a house in Kalingalinga, but life was not easy because my mother started getting sick. Being the first born, I had to take care of my younger brothers and sisters," recalls the boy.
Tragedy befell their house. His 10-year-old young brother was sexually abused by an elderly woman within the township and got syphilis. The matter was reported to the police and the woman has since been jailed.
Later, Kennedy became the bread winner through stone crushing. He used to get K 1,000 per one full wheelbarrow in a day forcing him in the afternoon to go in the streets to earn some extra money. His family could then have a decent meal on the table the following day.
"One day I was at Kabulonga shopping complex when I saw a car trying to park at Melissa and two ladies whom I asked if I could guard their car in exchange for bread and which they agreed," he says.
It was this encounter that changed the status of the boy. His long-dwindled school dreams were rekindled as the two kind women offered to sponsor him back to school, having learnt that he was not only in need of temporal bread but an investment in education.
"When they came out from the shop, they gave me a loaf of bread and asked where I stayed and if I was interested in going back to school. I agreed and they promised to come back the following day."
The promise was honoured. After a week, a school place was found at Kalingalinga basic school in grade five.
The two ladies turned out to be Monica Eisenbeig, a personal development consultant and Charity Moola a fashion designer who is also a minister of the gospel.
One afternoon, the duo was back at Kabulonga shopping complex. And when a guard asked them what name to write on the receipt, they told him to write ‘Back to School’ because they saw children going back to school.
After the school holiday, they eventually decided to form an organisation called Back to School Education Centre in Kabulonga.
The organisation was eventually born in November 2004 as a private initiative to help vulnerable children found on the streets to go back to school.
In the long run, it is expected to help transform the children into better citizens as they fulfill their dreams for a better tomorrow.
"Right now, I eat three meals just like any other kid and I know how to read and write because ‘Back to School Education Centre’ offers me extra lessons when I knock off from school."
Being on the streets does not mean one cannot be what they dream of in life. Everyone can realise their dreams, if only they could get just a little bit of help.
Ms Eisenbeig says the organisation supports children who are single or double orphans and because their families cannot afford to feed and take them to school.
Currently, the organisation has two children who are in grade 12 while others are in grade 10 with a good number doing their lower grades.
She said most of the kids found on the streets are as a result of losing one or both parents. The children between the ages of six and 18 years are exposed to different kinds of abuse including drug and sexual.
And Charity Moola says children need special affection for them to feel loved and cared for because the kids on the street are gifted with different talents and each one of them is different.
While some children resort to begging on the streets as a result of hunger, others end up on the streets because of they lack anyone to help them or any shoulder to cry on.
"We try to instill a sense of traditional values and respect in the children so that they can understand where they are coming from," said Ms Moola.
Although the two women consider themselves as parents, they still face a lot of difficulties and challenges in handling the children. One explanation is that by virtue of coming from the streets the boys are usually rude, aggressive and dishonest.
And since the organisation has been discouraging children from begging, it would only be proper to ensure its programmes are not donor-funded. And that is what has been happening.
Ms Moola says the organisation does not want to depend on donors because it wants to set an example to the children and society that begging is not a solution to one’s problems.
The children are taught on behavioral change, self-care and hygiene so that they do not get diseases like cholera and bilharzia which are common in the townships.
They are also encouraged to compete within themselves and not with others if they are to succeed in life because determination comes from within oneself.
Only if they compete within themselves shall they be able to realise their full potential!