33pc children of school-going age are without formal schooling in federal capital

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Report on ‘Plight of Street Children in Islamabad’ recommends way forward for rescue of needy kids

Zubair Qureshi

According to a report titled ‘Plight of Street Children in Islamabad’ launched by the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Federal Ombudsman) Wednesday, the federal capital turns out to be the most vulnerable district with regard to the presence of street children as 33 per cent of the children of school-going age live here. Moreover, there has been a 25pc increase in them in one year alone i.e. from 2020 to 2021.

The study that is conducted among the children of average age, 12 gives diverse information about such children like their educational status, living conditions, ethnic and linguistic background, etc. Among the sample of the street children surveyed 65pc are male and 35pc are female. Conducted and compiled by Advisor/Grievance Commissioner for Children Syeda Viquar-un-Nisa Hashmi and her team the report shows that among the street children of Islamabad, a big chunk comes from the Afghan refugees.

In the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) there are 19,961 registered Afghan refugees of up to the 17-year age group. Some of them are involved in child labour while some are also exploited by the locals into begging.

The field data revealed that 91pc sample children were living with their families/guardians (generally the migrants from Northern Areas, Nomads termed as ‘Changar’ and refugees), while 9pc were homeless. The medical examination of street children CPI revealed serious issues of malnourishment, drug addiction, sexual abuse, skin diseases and even HIV. According to the report, 49pc of these children are of school going age, 44pc told they were dropped out of normal schools while 44pc from religious seminary, 2pc did not give any clear answer.

According to the report, from 1991 to May 2022, only 597 adult beggars and their facilitators were put behind the bars. Challans were submitted in 98.99% cases, leading to conviction in 98.09% and acquittal in 1.9%, yet scores of beggars are witnessed across the city. The report also indicates that 11,681 street children in ICT had been picked by the police from Jan.2020 to May 2022 and dropped at Edhi Centre and CPI. The Edhi Centre has neither mandate nor capacity to accommodate street children therefore, releases them in the evening.

In the light of the report, which is first-ever and a sincere effort by the Federal Ombudsman to address the plight of the Out of School Children/street children, Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi has directed all concerned agencies of the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the study report.

At a press conference while giving the background of the study, its salient findings and key recommendations the FO vowed to ensure the implementation of the recommendations. The report sets out priorities and gives evidence-based recommendations to the key stakeholders & government agencies. According to him, the research reveals that child labour/beggary is an outcome of extreme poverty, homelessness / abandonment of children, etc., and predominately a lucrative family business of some communities and begging rings.

The report recommended a robust mechanism for the rescue and care of children in need; registration of refugees on priority basis and basic facilities of health and education regardless of their status.

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