Since antiquity, it is a common phenomenon to use children in begging activities. You can observe a number of children on the streets stretching their hands for money – “please, brother I’m starved, buy me a loaf of bread!” Parents or guardians use children for begging purposes to easily influence alms-givers and boost their income. Givers may feel guilt-ridden when they see the begging face of these children who are usually encouraged by their guardians. Besides,, to satiate their greed for more money, it is widely rumoured that parents and guardians deliberately inflict harm on children and then bring them out to the streets before they recover from their injuries, just to win the sympathy of unsuspecting patrons. In almost every corner of the city, on the streets and at the gates of religious institutions, there are growing numbers of parents who are using their children for begging.
Research findings revealed that in Addis Ababa children take part in begging activities in three categories. First, young children beg money independently on the street by leaving home early in the morning. Secondly, toddlers beg with their parents or caregivers. The last group join the street for begging purposes, hired by a third party. After spending the whole day begging on street, they go back to their employers to surrender the money and they will get a minimal amount of wage as a daily fee. This article tries to cover pushing factors that triggered the use of children in begging activities.
Begging implies extreme poverty and economic disadvantage, hence all beggars are theoretically considered as poor. Thus, poverty pushes parents to send their children out on the street for begging. Parents may be ashamed of begging in front of familiar faces; they make their children available instead. This renders children to be an easily accessible prey for begging. In fact, it is difficult to conclude that all beggars are poor and economically disadvantaged since some parents consider begging as a means of generating income and a shortcut to overcome unemployment.
Healthy urbanization is believed to bring about better job opportunities and better life in urban areas. When the rate of urbanization increases, it creates stress and frustration among those who cannot cope with changes and new lifestyles. This in turn pushes some to engage in begging activities due to lack of sufficient money to sustain them in town. In addition, urbanization lures rural dwellers for better job and income; and when they fail to do so, they are forced to take up begging as an option and children are the preferred actors in this..
Demographic increment has both blessings and curses for a given country. In countries where there are sufficient natural resources and job opportunities, having a big population will help as a ‘capital’ to build up a strong economy. In contrary, for poor countries increase in population rate results in extreme poverty and illiteracy. Besides, limited resources like farm land, housing, water, and absence of other basic services also contribute to push a large number of people to lead their life in begging. When population increases it means there are many children that will come to this world without any plan, and their fate would be to get involved in begging.
- School failure
Some children who failed in school easily join the street and consequently engage in begging to regain the freedom they lost at home and in school. Some other children, however productive in their learning, still engage in begging after school to earn money to support themselves and their parents.
- Family breakdown
Family breakdown occurs due to different reasons. For example, in divorce/separation, death of a parent(s), or imprisonment of parent(s) occurs, children will feel lonely and rush to join the street to compensate the love and affection they lost from their immediate family or caregiver.
The aforementioned factors are reasons that push children towards begging on street. Begging has many adverse impacts on children and the society at large. We shall discuss some adversities as below:
- Physical abuse
When children go out to the street for begging without adult supervision, they suffer verbal and physical abuse by other people on the streets or even other beggars. Furthermore, in places where they beg, security officers, restaurant and shop owners often chase them away. When these children run away randomly to protect themselves especially from physical abuses, they fell victims to accidents. Besides, female children will be exposed to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Children are also exposed to the scorching sun and the biting cold, as they spend most of their time begging on the streets. So, they are exposed to various excruciating health-related problems.
- Psychological impact
Children who beg on the streets are totally deprived of care, play and generally from childhood. For these reasons, they do not have any chance to dream about a better tomorrow. Even when they grow to become adults without proper education or training, life becomes boring with joblessness. Therefore, they lose hope very early on and as a result espouse abusing drugs and substances. The local community also discriminates against them for fear that they could be potential criminals, making it difficult for children to lead a normal life by reuniting in the mainstream society,.
- School dropout
We have seen that dropping out of school is a push factor for children to join the begging business. Meanwhile, those children who are attending school but do not have enough time to attend to the demands of school due to begging face challenges on their academic performances. Since these affects their motivation and enthusiasm to attend their school, they totally dropout of school to carry on begging.
Generally, the use of children in begging activities is related to poverty and this, in turn, has an adverse effect on children, families, societies and the country at large. Therefore, parents who, due to the strong forces of adversity, send their children out to the streets for begging need to be provided with a poverty alleviation program that will play a paramount role in changing their life style. In addition, taking the necessary action on those who deliberately send children for begging is the responsibility of every citizen and law enforcement bodies.
Throwing a penny for beggars do not change their life; it is much better if givers organize themselves to help these disadvantaged segments of the society to give them a permanent economic relief so that they can be able to send their children to school. In addition, the government is also expected to develop proper policies for poverty reduction in urban areas. Children should go to school to grasp better knowledge than remain on the street for begging and for this to happen, it is our responsibility to shoulder their burden.