A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Darker Side of Innocence

It is a harsh reality when you start to question the motivation of children. Walking around the market in Vilankulo, a costal town about 10 hours by bus south of Beira, I met a group of kids, and started chatting and joking. They loved my camera- particularly seeing their image on the screen. They started dancing and singing, and on the surface looked all sweet and innocent. However, it turned out that they were drunk, sharing beer between them. The oldest was no more than 12. Then one pinched my wallet!

I did not lose much money, but my trust in there been a chance for childhood here has been robbed. Kids have to be streetwise to survive. Petty crime must seem like an easy option. All across the country I have seen small kids selling everything from pineapples to plastic bags. In all of central Mozambique, I did not see one school. I know that there are some, but they are few and far between. I hear that functional literacy is at about 10%. Life expectancy averages around 30. About one in three are HIV positive.

This country is at the raw end of challenge. For these kids, what little future they have is uncertain. I will not condone what they did, but I have been trying to put myself in their shoes. Can I really be so self-righteous to say I would not do such a thing? No, I don’t think so.

Had not met people along the way on this journey who are working to change the system, working on the solutions, then I would be in a sorry state by this stage of the journey. The problems are vast; but there are people working on the solutions. I do still think that change is possible here, but it requires more people, with more commitment, who are willing to challenge the way things work. This particularly means local people, who understand the system and will not tolerate the corruption which is rife in Mozambique. Do they exist? Well, let me continue to try to find out…


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