Belonging, Inclusive Education, and Street-Connectedness.

Marking the International Day for Street Children

Image taken from

On April 12th every year, those of us who work and conduct research with street-connected young people mark the international day for street children. As the Consortium for Street Children highlight, we want to support street-connected young people by:

  1. Ensuring they have the same access to services, resources, care and opportunities that other young people have.
  2. Amplifying their voices so they can make their views known.
  3. Putting an end to the discrimination they face on a daily basis.

This year, as access to services is at the forefront of our thinking on #StreetChildrenDay, I am providing a summary of a research project conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Glad’s House in Kenya in relation to street-connected young people’s opinions and experiences of education, and how the findings of this research confirm how a sense of (not) belonging affects a learner’s engagement and performance in school.

Experiences of formal schooling as rationale for inclusive pedagogies of practice

This study, funded by the British Academy (Grant code: SRG 170976), aimed to build on the research skills of the social work and education teams at Glad’s House to develop qualitative methods of data generation that could be integrated into their daily programmes of work for more meaningful monitoring and evaluation. After a workshop on qualitative research methods, Kevin and Irene piloted the use of walking interviews, drawings, and image elicitation interviews, aiming to understand the education-related opinions and experiences of young people who had been street-connected for extended periods of time. Lillian conducted focus group activities with young men for whom she provided counselling support.

The findings, which are discussed in more detail in a 2020 paper that also discusses my doctoral research conducted in another part of Kenya (Corcoran 2016), highlight:

a) how some young people’s negative experiences education were a reason for dropping out and initially migrating to the street;

b) how fear, embarrassment, and shame of being out-of-school for an extended period of time, and/or being street-connected, prevents young people from going (back) into formal education; and

c) how acceptance and support are key to overcoming feelings of not belonging and the challenges faced by street-connected young people transitioning into schools.

It is possible to say that street-connected young people do not leave the street. They may be physically removed from the space, but their experiences of leaving and continuing through education suggest that street-connectedness is not spatially or temporally constrained. Young people develop emotional ties to the people and opportunities found on the street, and may have fled difficult home situations. Therefore, becoming street-connected is a process of becoming and making sense of the self within the context of the interactional space thought of as the street; and leaving the street involves another process of becoming in which street-connected identities continue to be constructed and re-constructed in relation to their new situations.

As young people transition into new communities, or return to old ones, they figure a sense of belonging in relation to their experiences of the transition and the interactions they have with others in that community. They are therefore able to settle into schools better when they feel supported and accepted, influencing long-term aspects such as academic performance or the roles that they envision for themselves at home and in society.

Therefore, as we attempt to negotiate street-connected young people’s transition into schools, especially within societies that uphold negative views about young people being on the street, it is important to develop welcoming learning environments, acceptance and support from teachers, and frameworks for friendship and peer support. We need to think beyond access to education and getting children into school, to consider long-term strategies that provide effective support systems – building trusting relationships between these young people and social work teams, building self-confidence and well-being through effective reintegration programmes that strengthen connections with family, school, and the community, and advocating for the provision of further support systems.

Glad’s House’s new Dr Philip Conlong Centre set to open in May 2021 – a safe space for street-connected children providing education and health programmes

Developing inclusive communities

In a recent paper written with Dimi Kaneva from the University of Huddersfield, we focus on the need to develop inclusive communities in formal education settings by looking at the learners of English as an additional language in the UK and street-connected young people in Kenya. In the paper, we explore the importance of listening to young people and how notions of belonging and positioning help to understand educational experiences that can inform the development of effective inclusive practice.

We highlight the limited focus on transitions in education, especially for marginalised learners, in both policy and academic literature and the need for a sustained focus on supportive, inclusive pedagogies of teaching and learning for all learners making transitions into or between levels of an education system, and in the months that follow. We need to better understand learners’ experiences through shared narratives and dialogue, starting with the learners’ experiences to develop pedagogies and foster inclusive communities within and beyond schools.

Su Corcoran is a research associate at ESRI. She would like to acknowledge her coauthors on the two papers highlighted in the blog post above – Irene Aluoch, Lillian Awimbo, Dimi Kaneva and Kevin Mugwanga. Glad’s House is an organisation in Mombasa, Kenya that works with street-connected young people. You can find out more about what they do at


Corcoran, S. (2016). Leaving the street? Exploring transition experiences of street-connected children and youth in Kenya. Doctoral dissertation. Manchester: University of Manchester.

Corcoran, S., Awimbo L., Mugwanga, K., Aluoch, I. (2020). ‘Street-connectedness and education in Kenya: experiences of formal schooling as rationale for inclusive pedagogies of practice’, Prospects

Corcoran, S. and Kaneva, K. (2021 ) ‘Developing inclusive communities: understanding the experiences of education of learners of English as an additional language in England and street-connected young people in Kenya’, International Journal of Inclusive Education

Spotlighting two of ESRI’s Collaborative Partnerships for the International Day for Street Children

April 12th is the International Day for Street Children. This year, organisations around the world will be marking the day between April 8th and 15th and our researchers at ESRI would like to take the opportunity to recognise the work of two of the organisations that they collaborate with in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo*.

ESRI’s focus on street-connectedness, education and social justice is led by Dr Su Corcoran who has over a decade’s experience of either working or conducting research with street-connected young people. In 2017, she co-edited an edition of Enabling Education Review that showcases a variety of ways in which organisations around the world enable street-connected young people’s access to education and has been focusing on this area of research in her work in East and Central Africa.  

The Mombasa County response team led by Glad’s House; Liz from Glad’s House filling a food parcel


In 2018/19, she led the British Academy-funded (Re-)engaging street-connected young people with education in Mombasa project in collaboration with Glad’s House. Exploring street-connected young people’s opinions and experiences of education to inform future social work practice, the team – which includes Kelvin Mugwanga (Senior Social Worker), Irene Atieno (Street Worker), and Dr Lilian Awimbo (Counsellor), found that negative experiences of schooling can be a key motivating factor for dropping out of school and migrating to the street. These experiences – in addition to feelings of (not) belonging, shame, and stigmatisation – can present barriers to going (back) into education as well as the cycles of dependency that are set up and reinforced by civil society organisations and ‘Good Samaritans’ taking an adhoc and uncoordinated approach to supporting street-based communities. The complete findings and recommendations for practice can be found in the final project report, which should be uploaded onto the project page at the end of April 2020. The team are now hoping to develop a follow on project that will focus on inclusive pedagogies of education practice.

Currently, while Kenya prepares to go into lockdown in the wake of COVID 19, the Glad’s House team are working to ensure that the young people they support are not forgotten. It is an especially hard time for young people who are street-connected and homeless, as they have nowhere to go when cities and countries go into lockdown. Glad’s House have contributed to a Street Invest blog post that shares the experiences and fears of street-connected young people in Ghana, Kenya, and Bangladesh, as well as guidelines for street workers during the pandemic that Street Invest have compiled. In practice, the organisation is working to ensure that homeless young people are as safe as they can possibly be. They have delivered food parcels to the young people and families they support and have also been working to install water tanks and facilities that street-connected young people can access to ensure that they are able to follow the COVID 19 recommendations of washing hands frequently and staying safe. In addition, Glad’s House are currently leading a response team comprising a number of non-governmental organisations and the County Government to develop a united, targeted approach to the issue.

The water tank set up by Glad’s House in Maboxini

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Dr Corcoran and Professor Kate Pahl’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and Global Challenges Research Fund networking project, Belonging and Learning, explored the use of arts methodologies to facilitate dialogue between displaced populations in Kenya, Uganda, and the DRC, and policy makers concerned with education and training. Using a different creative process in each country, policy makers were invited to take part in workshops with either street-connected young people or refugees to discuss the young people’s experiences and the challenges they faced in accessing education. In the DRC, Thomas D’Aquin Rubambura from the organisation PEDER, co-facilitated the workshop, bringing local policy makers together with various education stakeholders to write poetry or short plays concerned with children’s right to education. The project report will be available to read here at the end of April 2020.

A PEDER listening post

PEDER takes an holistic approach in their work with street-connected young people, from providing trustworthy adults on the streets of Bukavu who can support them to running multiple centres that provide vocational training for street-connected and vulnerable young people. One aspect of PEDER’s work that is inspiring is the installation of Listening Posts across the city. These small sheds are manned at set times every day to ensure that if they need to find a trustworthy adult, young people know when and where to find one. In the current COVID 19 climate, the DRC government have imposed rigorous measures to prevent the spread of the virus and most of these interventions have had to close. As it is important that young people access the government advice on the virus, PEDER is prioritising tools for raising awareness with street-connected young people. They are developing a communication system focused on the health of the young people they support: providing necessary information about COVID 19 in order to reduce the risk of contamination and setting up operational alert mechanisms to monitor their health situation and decide modes of referral to specialised services when needed. PEDER are also part of a Protection Cluster network of organisations, coordinated by UNICEF, and will meet to discuss a collaborative advocacy approach to supporting street-connected and vulnerable young people that they will take to local government.

Dr Corcoran and Professor Pahl are hoping to develop their collaborations with both organisations in the future. 

Read more about what street workers are doing in Kenya, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone in Street Invest’s latest blog post:  

* Due to the length of this blog we can only focus on two organisations, but Su and Kate would like to recognise the important work of Kito International, Fikisha Kenya, Zero Street Child Foundation, Retrak, Child Rescue Kenya, Project Elimu, InterAid, Karunalaya, Street Child United (SCU), and all organisations participating in the 2018 Street Child World Cup and 2019 Street Child Cricket World Cup – as well as their contributions to their current and past research projects.