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I have been begging since birth…

13-year child beggar narrates ordeal

May 25, 2015 By Victoria Saffa

On a daily basis, 13-year-old Fatmata Gbla walks back and forth in front of the Law Court building, Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown. With her young and innocent appearance, she politely appeals to passersby for assistance. Someone hands her a Le1000 note and she mutters “thank you.” Another isn’t so enthused by her appeal and waves her away.

Fatmata has been a beggar since she was very young. She cannot remember the exact age that she started begging. But she says that, “I have been begging since when I was a kid because my parents are both handicapped and I am the one presently helping them.”

In effect, this 13-year-old girl carries the responsibility of looking after her disabled parents. As she spoke to Concord Times, tears strolled down her cheeks. “Since I was brought to this world, I have never experienced happiness like other children,” she said, sounding more like an adult.

“I have been sleeping in front of shops at Ecowas Street with my mother. She has four siblings and they are all beggars.”

Going to school has never crossed her mind, she said. Why not? She told Concord Times, “Because my parents cannot afford to pay my fees. We spend all of our time on Siaka Street begging.”

She acknowledged that many people have met her to discuss ways by which she could be assisted to go to school. Unfortunately, she has not received any support. “People will interview me and promise to help me but I never see them again.”

One of her biggest problems is a lack of accommodation. Fatmata and her mother are homeless and now sleep on the street. “Government should help us with accommodation,” she pleaded. She also wants free education.

Accommodation is a major problem in Freetown and even the averagely rich people have difficulties renting expensive apartments.

Deputy Minister of Social welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Mustapha Bai Attilla, said that the ministry has been working hard to help women and children, especially street children.

He said they have been partnering with other organizations in finding safe homes for street children as well as providing them with free school lessons.

Most of the street children came from the provinces, said the minister, adding that the ministry was working to trace and reunite them with their families.

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