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: https://www.streetinvest.org/blog/street-work-making-street-safer-during-covid-19
* 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.