Our Work with Street Children
So many children are living part or full-time on the streets driven by the loss of family, lack of financial support or intolerable living situations at home. Once on the street, normal childhood ends and going to school can be impossible.
Living on the streets is an option of last resort for children who have no alternatives for either income or accommodation, but on the streets, children face a myriad of challenges:
- Street life can be extremely traumatic, exposing children to high levels of hunger, violence and disease.
- Both boys and girls face high levels of verbal, physical and sexual abuse, with girls at particularly high risk of being forced to engage in commercial sex work.
- Children are routinely exploited and paid significantly less than adults for the same jobs.
- Street activities carry physical risks, such as dangerous traffic, health risks, poor levels of hygiene and sanitation, and other environmental hazards.
- Children often turn to substance abuse as a way of escaping the harsh realities of life on the street.
- Street children face stigma and discrimination as they are labelled as criminal vagrants.
- Periodical round-ups, and brutality from the police, reinforce street children’s criminalisation, and prevent these children from gaining the support and rehabilitation they need.
Street children still have the right to an education, yet school systems do not accommodate this highly vulnerable group. Street children are routinely denied the opportunity to grow and develop through education, due to a variety of barriers:
- Most street children are unable to attend school simply because they have to work to support themselves.
- The few street children who do go to school are regularly absent and achieve poor learning outcomes due to having a lack of time to study.
- Street children often struggle with low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, and a sense of worthlessness and shame.
- The stigma of being on the streets makes it difficult for children to integrate into education and with their peers.
- Teachers have not had adequate training to deal with such sensitive issues as vulnerable children, inclusive education, and child protection.
- Due to the negative labelling of street children, there is poor awareness amongst communities of the need to support the reintegration and education of these children.
Street children need to be able to access school. Education can make living on the streets a temporary experience instead of a lifelong sentence. In order for street children to be able to go to school, these children need a supportive and flexible environment where they are made to feel like valuable pupils, not criminal vagrants.
Including Street Children in Education
AET works to bring street children back into the education system and make the transition away from street life. We support a comprehensive approach to street children’s education, including:
- Partnering with local organisations, such as ‘Children’s Outreach’ in Uganda, that offer school preparation courses alongside psychosocial support to help street children readjust to mainstream life.
- Working with schools so they can understand the unique situation faced by street children and help support their reintegration into the school system.
- Facilitating coordination between schools, police, district government and the community to raise awareness of these issues and improve attitudes and support for street children.
- Providing street children and families with school starter kits, which include uniforms, exercise books and other materials they may need to start their journey into education.
AET’s preparation classes, counselling and recreation activities provide a valuable foundation for bridging the gap from street life to formal school, helping children to regain their self-esteem, address the trauma they have experienced, and leave behind the street environment. Once the children are in school, there is a need to work closely with teachers to promote positive attitudes towards street children, as their inclusion into mainstream schools, their performance in class and their behaviour all relate to how well they are treated.
Help give children the chance to return to school.