PESHAWAR: Zamung Kor, a project to provide shelter to street children, was launched by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government earlier last month with great fanfare, however it is likely to take at least three more months to become fully functional.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had inaugurated the project on November 20 on the occasion of Universal Children Day. However, a visit to Nasapa flats on Charsadda Road on the outskirts of the city shows that no children are living there as all the rooms are padlocked.

The huge complex comprising 11 blocks of 216 residential flats is completely empty except some policemen and social welfare department guards, who are deputed there.

The policemen, deputed at the residential complex, told Dawn that about 40 street children were brought there in a bus but they left the same day after the inauguration ceremony. “They even did not spend a single night in this building,” a policeman said.

Official says project was not launched formally and would take about three more months

Another guard said that the children were taken to another government facility in Hassan Ghari locality of the city. The institution was likely to become functional on January 1, he said, adding that presently there was no gas connection in the complex.

However, a relevant official in social welfare and women development department, told Dawn that the project was not formally launched then and was likely to take around three months to become fully functional. “That was just a soft launch for public awareness and knowledge. It is not so simple to pick up street children and put them into some institution,” the official said, adding that they were working on a plant to make it a self-sustaining institution.

He said that there were many legal and procedural formalities to follow to make the model institution fully functional. “It is not just a hostel, rather we are trying to provide a family environment to these children,” he said.

The official said that they set up dining hall, kitchen and classrooms in the building and telephone connection was also provided to the complex. He said that 29 children were currently living in welfare home for protection. He said that model street children home was a big project and they planned to set up a state-of-the-art institution. “We have also acquired 100 kanals in the vicinity of the project,” he said.

The official said that street children were not normal children and their rehabilitation and integration process would be a long one and the officials working at this facility needed to be properly trained to handle them.

He said that the residential complex, which was handed over to social welfare department, would have residences, sports and recreation facilities, outdoor games and computer laboratories for street children. “It is a model institution and not something temporary,” the official said. He added that they were also legislating to give legal cover to the institution.

The official said that although no official figures of street children in the provincial capital were available, yet estimates from various surveys put their number around 25,000. However, presently, only 29 children were staying at the welfare and beggar home jointly.

The project would cost Rs449 million to the provincial kitty to host about 1,000 street children.

MPA Begum Meraj Humayun Khan, focal person for the project, told Dawn that in November the project was only announced and its formal launch was scheduled in January.

She said that 29 children were taken there from child protection unit Faqirabad and were also given gifts. She said that many legal and procedural issues were involved in making an autonomous institution which they were trying to overcome. “It is not a project, rather a programme aimed at taking out all children from streets,” she said.

The MPA said that a nine-member board was also formed for the institution and its meeting would take place on December 17. “The board will select its chairman and also approve institution’s rules and regulations,” she said.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2015