The UNICEF-supported Juvenile Justice programme has already helped hundreds of children to reform their lives and escape an unfortunate and bleak future.
Take one young boy, Gismet, 18 years old. Last year, he teamed up with a group of eight boys that then robbed a man delivering 1700 pre-paid mobile phone cards. Gismet served as a lookout, and he says he wasn’t fully aware that a crime was going to be committed. Nevertheless, he was arrested along with the others; his first run-in with the law.
Gismet regrets very much what happened, and vows never again to go with those boys or others who plan mischief. He was fortunate to get off with probation on condition that he come to the Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Legal Aid Services Centre for Juveniles in Conflict with the Law.
``At first I didn’t want to come here to this centre, but now it is like an extended part of my family,’’ said Gismet, fidgeting in his seat as difficult memories returned. ``I learned to tell the difference between good and bad boys, real friends and fake friends. Also, I’ve learned interesting and useful skills, such as computer, that can help me in the future.’’
The training sessions with psychologists have also opened a whole new horizon for him, and increased his self-understanding.
``I usually come here overloaded, with a lot on my mind, and sometimes I don’t even want to come here,’’ said Gismet. ``But then I come, and I spend time with the psychologist and I feel much better after. I’m more relaxed after psychology sessions.’’
So far, this is the only centre that can help children in conflict with the law, or at risk, but the plan is for these centres to be established across the country to enable children to grow up protected from the likelihood of one mistake leading to a life of crime.