“Please sir, one hundred Kwacha? So hungry, no food, please sir!”
Almost everyday in my travels through Lusaka, I no doubt pass at least one child, who asks me for money. Most of the time they’re just down the street at the main intersection of Kubulonga, or Kubulonga Robots as they are referred to (robots being a slang term used here for traffic lights). Kubulonga, the area where my office is located, is quite an upscale portion of Lusaka. Quite a stark contrast too most other places in the city. Yet, despite the affluence, there are still street children in this area. Not surprising, as there really is no great physical divide here between rich and poor. Not like in North America, where in rich neighborhoods you see no evidence of poverty what so ever. Here, Rich and Poor live along side each other. The rich seemingly are almost completely oblivious to the existence of the poor though.
As I pass by these kids, I have this great moral dilemma. What do I do? I know I have a hundred Kwacha in my pocket, and it really isn’t a lot of money (about 3 cents), I could give it and make this kid happy perhaps. I don’t know what he’d use it for, maybe he’s genuine and buy food, maybe not and buy something else. I don’t know! And what about the precedent it sets? I surly cannot afford to give money to every child in this city, let alone country who asks me for it, how can I choose one child over another? People argue that giving child beggars money only encourages illiteracy. If that child wasn’t begging, they mean to say, he’d be in school. But how can he be in school if he cannot afford the school fees. What can I do?
Time and time again, I just walk by these children, most of the time not even acknowledging their presence, but sometimes giving them the shake of the head to say no. I feel like a jerk doing it, but what can I do? I can throw out explanations of begging not being a sustainable income, and it’s better for them to go to school, but in the end what good will it do? Will it discourage the child from begging if that is his only means of survival in this city? What does the kid do at my refusal? Nothing, just moves on to ask the next person.
The adults are worse, they’ll actually yell at me when I refuse, times I’m glad I don’t speak Nyanja, Tonga, Bemba or any of the other Zambian languages.