Government officials will begin going to homes to teach parents how to bring up their children if Cabinet approves a new policy proposed by the Gender and Social Development ministry.
Officials say they are worried about the decline in traditional social values and increased family breakups, resulting in high number of street children.
The assistant commissioner, Mr James Ssembatya, said the proposed early childhood development guidelines will help fix the problems that cause children to leave their parents’ homes.
“Parents do not provide time for their children. In town, they leave them for the maids to bring them up. In the villages, they think it is the responsibility of the government,” Mr Ssembatya said yesterday.
“Parents are abandoning their responsibilities by either giving their children to other people to take care of or by not caring for the children and they end up on the street,” the commissioner added.
According to Youth minister Ronald Kibuule, there are an estimated 10,000 street children in Kampala, Soroti, Mbale, Iganga and Jinja towns, majority of whom are from Karamoja sub-region.
There have been unproven allegations that some NGOs and high-profile individuals ferry and front the children as a face for gathering money from foreign donors or beg directly from the public in violation of their rights.
According to Mr Ssembatya, the Gender ministry’s top management has already approved the policy, and the line minister is due to present it to Cabinet for consideration.
However, some parents have expressed pessimism over the proposed policy.
“The government should not try to replace the provision of social services with declaration on private issues in people’s homes,” Ms Lydia Namubiru, a single mother, said.
“If you feel, for instance, that children should have a right to health services, then the government should provide those better services. I don’t think [official] declaration is going to change things,” she added.
The proposed policy details what each government sector will handle on streets under eight years, with Gender ministry focusing on parenting, strengthening family values and bonds between couples and advocating for child protection at both family and community level.
A survey by the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) early this year shows that one in every pair of children under 15 increasingly turn to live off the street.
The researchers attribute the trend to mistreatment of children at homes, child labour and peer pressure, among other push factors.
“The common push factors are the breakdown of the family system, poor parenting and poverty. There is evidence that more children are accompanied by close relatives to come on the street,” the ANPPCAN executive director, Mr Anselm Wandega, said.
Urban authorities routinely round up the children and take them to Kapiringisa juvenile remand home, but most soon find their way back on the streets.
Kampala Capital City Authority’s Gender and Community Services director Harriet Mudondo said it is illegal for children to be on streets.