By: Trokon Wrepue – [email protected]
Monrovia – When it is the day, a segment of the children in the country knows exactly what their duty is and in what locations they will travel with their visually impaired parents to make ends meet.
During the morning hours of each day, these children will set up for a long journey across the streets of Monrovia with their visually impaired parents.
They use that means to visit major entertainment centers, shopping and marketplaces, hotels, government ministries and agencies and sometimes sitting around major street corners to ask those available for handouts just to survive.
At this point, the concern of these children and their parents is not education neither preparation for the future but what they will obtain for a day just to keep them breathing.
As they move around daily, the children are left alone to control the movements of their parents, take the dangerous risk of crossing streets and moving between speeding vehicles to ask privileged individuals to help them out.
That is not just happening in Monrovia, it is now the norm in Liberia, that physically challenged will have to fetch for themseves because there is no means of survival.
ELWA Junction, Vamoma House, ERA Supermarket around Vamoma Junctions, along the major Broad Street and several other places in and out of Monrovia are some of the places where this group of people can be found.
The Stage Media visited the Vamoma Junction and spoke with some of the children on challenges they faced and as to whether how they feel while in the streets when their mates are in school preparing for the future.
Mariama Edward,14 years, lives 20th Street in Sinkor with her visually impaired mother.
She is here with the sole purpose of guiding her mother and helping to take her to stopped vehicles and bystanders to ask for help.
Mariama says “I usually come here every day in the morning with my ma. We can be here until 7-8 PM sometimes we can move from here 10 pm. I can take my ma to every car that stopped to beg and also take her from one shop to another.”
She wants to go to school but there is no money, her sole purpose is to ensure that each dime goes to food.
“I want to go to school but no money. My ma does not have money to send me to school. So, the only thing we can do is to come here every morning to ask people to help us. Sometimes the small money we can get from here is what we use to buy food for the house for us to eat.” Mariama said.
Little Mariama’s dream is to become a lawyer when she grows up. “I want to be a lawyer when I finish high school, but I need help, this is a call for people to please send me to school.
“When you come right to Vamoma Junction where the blind people can sit, ask for Mariama, you will find me. I am looking for help from anyone to please send me to school.”
Ma Musu, 9 years, lives 24th Street in Sinkor like Mariama, she assists her visually impaired mother daily moving from one vehicle to another in search of a penny.
According to Ma-Musu she takes her mother early at 7 AM and they leave at 10 PM daily, a routine she and her mother must do all through the week.
“We can walk from down 24th Street every morning to come here. When we are here, my mother will be sitting because she can’t see. So, I am the one going to the passengers in the stopped cars asking for help. That’s not all, I can also ask the passerby too to come and help my ma and me.” Ma-Musu told TSM.
She says the money collected in the day is not enough to keep her in school so it goes only for food.
Ma Musu wants to be a Medical Doctor in the future but Mariama and her share the same story –“No money”
Alieu Sylli aged 12, is here with his father, a visually impaired Oldman. Alieu and his physically challenged father live behind the Blue Crest University along with Tubman Boulevard in Monrovia.
When asked why he was not in school, Alieu said: “I can help bring my father here soon morning. We stay here until nighttime before we go home. My pa has no money that’s why I am not in school, but I really want to go to school.”
“The small money we can collect from here is what we can use to buy food to eat in the night when we get home. I really want to go to school but my pa says the school fees too high and no money so I still waiting. When he gets the money I will go to school. Alieu mentioned.
His dream is to become President of Liberia.
Fatu Kollie is 14 years old. She has come here along with her father in order to help him.
Fatu told TSM that she and her visually impaired parents have stayed on the street begging for the past two years.
“We can come here. I can help my parents every morning so that they get here. While here, I will go between the cars begging on their behalf and also asking people who are walking along the street to help us with whatever little thing they have.”
Little Fatu like the previous two kids is not enrolled in school. She wants to go to school but told TSM that her both parents do not have the funds to maintain her acquired education.
Her dream is to become a Vice President.
“I want to become a Vice President to work for the people in Liberia. I just begging you people who do this interview to please ask the people that have money to help me to go to school. When I learn well, I will be able to be Vice President.”
These children’s rights to education are no guarantee as they are growing older with no education while their peers are in school preparing for future challenges.
According to a 2017 report by Street Child of Liberia estimated that over 14,000 children existed on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia. Their lives are neither positive nor sustainable. Unable to meet their basic needs, these children are highly susceptible to violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation, and at risk for drug addiction, physical trauma, and trouble with the law; girls also run the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.
According to UNICEF, since the end of the conflict, significant progress has taken place in the education sector.
In 2015, close to 1.4 million children were registered in pre-primary, primary and high school. In addition, the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other partners teamed up and continue to repair or build new classrooms, train teachers, revise curricula and develop policies and plans for the education sector.
Yet, Liberia is significantly behind most other African countries in nearly all education statistics.
Liberia has one of the world’s highest levels of out-school children, with an estimated 15 to 20 percent of 6–14-year-olds who are not in class. Just over a third of preschoolers have access to early childhood learning programmes and only 54 percent of children complete primary education.
A request made by TSM to the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection for inquiry to deal with the current situation has gone unanswered for nearly two months.
A copy of the email
Date: Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 1:29 PM
Subject: Request for Interview
To: <[email protected]>
Good day sir,
I am Trokon Wrepue, a Liberian Journalist. I work with both Ok 99.5 FM in Monrovia and The Stage Media an online Fact-checking platform also in Liberia.
I am doing an article relating to children who take their visually impaired parents around to beg for survival. Our investigation has established that the majority of them are out of school due to a lack of financial support and some economic constraints.
We are glad to hear from the Ministry of Gender’s department on Children Welfare on what program it has in place for children of such category.