Four adults and two children. That is how empty one coach was when we left Blantyre for Lilongwe. Include the driver and the hostess, then that brings the number of grown-ups to six. I know business is bad but did not realise that it is this: very, very bad.
Not that it was the first time to travel this light but this time around, the damaging effects of broken trust got me thinking.
There was a time one had to make quite an early advance booking to secure a seat. Not anymore. You just drive in, certain an empty seat awaits you. But what happened for such an established bus company to start losing business in such melodramatic fashion?
Is it because more players have entered the market? It is more to do with trust. Trust was broken. Passengers’ trust was shattered. Shred and strewn all over the place! Departure delays and constant breakdowns competed for space in severing the chord of trust.
Trust is one of the most widely forsaken virtues which, sadly, pushes many innocent young boys and girls on a knife-edge. Broken trust is the reason many children leave their homes for a life on the street. These ‘modern day Oliver Twists’ are not as ruthless as you believe.
Somebody broke their trust, a community betrayed them. The nation cheated them. Instead of providing for their daily needs, some parents send them on begging errands.
Most communities are failing to take heed of shell-shocked young girls forced into early marriages and yet, they are many years behind nubile age! Instead of supporting their HIV-infected guardians with necessary drugs at appropriate times, the collapsing health system betrays them.
An incapacitated breadwinner leaves them with no choice but scavenge for food wherever they can be found. Instead of ensuring they have a safe and secure future through education attainment, some parents and guardians also enter into exploitative agreements that perpetuate child labour.
These vulnerable children move into urban areas to fend for themselves, and for their siblings too! Hunger and starvation draws the young minds to difficult places where they painfully search for crumbs. With broken trust, they live in bodies much younger than the earthly torture they have been subjected to. They then resort to building a protective armour around themselves.
They do not disclose their true identity in order to protect themselves. It takes time, much time for them to let anyone know the real circumstances around their misfortune. Whatever they say at first contact are largely stories to appeal to the hearer’s emotions.
Do you think an 11 year-old girl can remain trusting if her own biological father molests her?
She knows through the knowledge acquired in class that this is a taboo and against all sensible things in nature. Gone are days when young children did not know where babies come from.
Tales about babies purchased from hospitals are no longer relevant because even the primary school curriculum makes sure that all matters to do with reproductive health are put to rest at the earliest opportune time.
Human rights stories are all over the place and young minds also learn about child rights in schools. Do you think a rights conscious young soul would not lose trust if his parents relinquishes the duty of bringing food on the table? The story is the same even in situations where children are not deliberately sent to the street to beg. Mere parental failure to fend for their own children smack of distrust. Do you have any idea what goes inside the mind of an 11 year-old boy whose uncle denies him the right to education when all his peers are attending school?
Street children lose trust not out of their making but circumstances force them to.
They are exposed to an abusive environment in their own futile attempt to make some meaning out of life. Bitterness, anger, depression and all the whole list of negative attributes weigh down the young minds to the point of absurdity. These young boys and girls develop thick skin in order to survive.
And when you see them you think they are rude, impudent and insolent. The aggression you see in them is only a coping mechanism. Abuse battered their trust. These young boys are merely trying to survive in a world which has placed a huge responsibility that surpasses their ability.