I had a crazy dream yesterday. I was with my friend, Dineo in Harare CBD, showing off the capital city of Zimbabwe. We strolled the street of Jason Moyo near the Africa Unity Square that is near parliament. In the dream we were approaching a shady alleyway and there were street kids in it. I warned my friend about how dangerous they are and she took off, running in the opposite direction.
She ran faster than me and in seconds I could see her big body in the distance. I am slimmer than her, but she was still faster than me and I was lagging behind.
A skinny teenager with dirty clothes and battered shoes ran after us. I was slow, like a tortoise and soon he caught me.
“Give me money,” he demanded.
I had money hidden in a small pocket in my trousers and my phone was inside my bra. I am always careful with where I keep my things in public. I wore a turtleneck and it would be hard for a thief to take my phone.
I shook my head, frozen in fear. He looked behind me and saw my friend who was running faster. She was far ahead and he decided to leave me and run after her.
“This one isn’t from here. She is the one I want,” he murmured and whistled.
I guess he was alerting other street kids that there was a newbie. I ran after him and I couldn’t see my friend. When I got to the main road I looked in all directions and after a few seconds I spotted her. Luckily the street kids had gone the wrong way. I started to walk so they wouldn’t notice the way I was going if they saw me.
And then I woke up, puzzled and breathing harshly, as if I was running for real.
I don’t know what had triggered the dream but it made me think of this boy I used to know who became a street kid.
When I was a teenager, a young boy of about 12 ran away from home and he lived on the streets. His father had married another woman who mistreated him and he couldn’t take it anymore and decided to run away.
One time I saw him picking food from the bin and I called him. He came and violently demanded money from me. He wasn’t the same boy I used to know. He had changed in the little time that he’d been living on the street.
Zimbabwe has plenty of street kids who sleep under cardboard boxes and eat from the bins. With the economy the way it is, no one can help them. But some of these street kids are comfortable living there.
One investor picked up some children and put them in an orphanage, but still they ran back to the streets again.
The street kids would become addicted to sniffing glue or plastic and would feed their addiction at night when there were no prying eyes. These drugs gave them the courage to commit crimes against people on the streets.
You can’t even eat a ice cream in the streets, because they would come running and grab the ice cream by force. They are no longer begging, but stealing. You can’t hold a takeaway of any kind because you attract street kids. Back in the day they would plead, but now it’s by force and many street kids are turning out to be thieves.
During my college days I used to walk 2 km from the taxi rank to Better Vision. It’s a really busy road and as I crossed the robot at Robert Mugabe to get to Leopard Takawira Street, I saw two street kids open a woman’s bag as she walked. I looked up and tried to warn her but one of the kids looked at me and showed me a knife.
I looked down and continued walking. When I reached two streets ahead I looked back to see if the street kids were following me. The woman was in the street I was on.
“Mama, I saw those guys opening your bag,” I whispered and ran.
My heart was beating fast because I knew I had reported those ruthless street kids. I couldn’t stop thinking about the way the guy threatened me, and the look of the woman when she quickly checked her bag.
On my way home I used another route. I was scared that they might harm me or maybe they saw me telling the woman what they did and might decide to follow me.
Street kids can be scary, especially to a woman alone because they attack without hesitation. I just wish the streets at night would be empty and safe, but in down town you’ll find them sleeping outside shops and in corridors. It looks like staying on the street is paradise to them, but it’s their only refuge.
Tell us: What other reason do you think kids end up on the streets?