The prevalence of poverty and violence in the regions where we work has resulted in huge numbers of children living and working on the streets. Street life can be devastating and extremely traumatic, with hunger, violence and disease ever present. Street children are at high risk from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, and often turn to substance abuse as a way of escaping the harsh realities of life on the street. In addition, they face routine harassment and round-ups by the police. Sadly, the equally desperate situations in these children’s homes mean that many of them choose street life over returning home.
Once on the street, children are excluded from mainstream life both by their need to support themselves through finding work and because of the street culture that leads many into criminal behaviour. For children, this frequently means exclusion from school. Local authorities treat street children as criminals, rather than children whose well-being is at risk from street life.
Street children need to be able to access school. Education can help make living on the street a temporary experience, instead of a life sentence. In order for these children to access education, they need a supportive and flexible environment which will allow them to attend school while also finding the means to support themselves.
AET supports a comprehensive approach to street children’s education. We work in partnership with local organisations which help street children recover from life on the street, readjust to mainstream life and prepare to return to school. We work with schools so they can challenge stigma by understanding the unique situation faced by street children and help support their reintegration into the school system. We also facilitate coordination between schools, police, district government and the community to raise awareness of these issues and improve attitudes and support for street children.
This project currently operates in Mbale, Uganda where we are supporting 3,000 street children. Many street children who have come to Mbale are from the Northern region of Uganda, which was affected by conflict up until 2007. The famine, poverty, history of violence and high rates of HIV & AIDS that still affect this region have driven many children to Mbale in the hope of finding better opportunities.
Working with our local partner ‘Child Restoration Outreach’, AET is helping these children to re-enter education and build a future for themselves away from the streets.
After what many street children have experienced, returning to school is a struggle. Many have experienced high levels of trauma, abuse and exploitation and require special assistance to begin to rebuild their lives.