Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, has issued a two-week ultimatum to irresponsible parents asking them to remove their children from the streets or risk arrest.
Addressing journalists at Capital Hill in Lilongwe on Wednesday, the Minister expressed dismay with the continued rise of street connected children particularly across the country’s cities.
Kaliati said the ministry will work hand in hand with security agencies, City Councils and other child rights stakeholders to ensure total enforcement of the order.
The Minister further said parents who let children roam the streets contravene Section 81 of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act (2010) which attracts a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment with hard labour.
She said: “We have been removing these street connected children to help them reconnect with their families but we noticed negligence from many parents and for that we will strictly crack a whip on them.”
“We have had enough of their irresponsibility and this frustrates our efforts in ensuring that no child is left behind towards attainment of the right to education and health living.”
Kaliati justified the arrest warning saying Malawi cannot achieve its respective developmental agenda including Malawi 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals if some people are purposely letting their children flood streets instead of sending them to school.
Recently, a woman in Ndirande, Blantyre was arrested for abandoning her children.
“We decided to make her example to other parents who have no regard for the welfare of their children.
“We commend the Police for moving in quickly to address the situation and I strongly advise all parents to take heed of this warning or else they will be locked up immediately,” she said.
When asked in an interview to explain which criteria government will use to bring to book all irresponsible guardians, the Minister said the Malawi Police Service and other child rights stakeholders including YONECO have tracing mechanisms which help identify the perpetrators.
The Minister has also called for an end to the habit of giving alms to these children saying if found, appropriate measures will follow.
Meanwhile, this coming weekend, Kaliyati will donate school uniforms to 720 street connected children, a drive which was initiated by one Moses Mwalabu, a former street-connected child now a graduate from Lilongwe University of Natural Resources.