For children living and ‘working’ on the streets, education is their only route to a brighter future. In Kisumu, Kenya’s fourth-largest city, there are nearly 3,000 children on the streets. They’ve often led chaotic and traumatic lives at home, suffering horrific abuse and neglect.
Having missed out on the nurturing home environment most of us take for granted, many won’t have developed basic language and social skills. They struggle to play with other children, can’t communicate their feelings and find respecting and listening to others difficult. This is made even worse by their lives on the streets, where they experience violence, hunger, and trauma every day. Combined these two factors have tragic consequences for children. We found that four in five children on the streets have a communication disability or additional need.
But for children who live on the fringes of society, their ‘hidden disabilities’ are never diagnosed. And for the few who do manage to enrol in school, the schools simply don’t have the resources to screen children for disabilities.
Yet even if the schools were aware of a child’s disability. There are no specialist teachers to provide extra support. Across the whole of Kenya, there are just 20 qualified speech and language therapists.
With no way to identify their educational needs, the most marginalised children are left to struggle in school. Sitting in a classroom without support and struggling to learn day after day. They quickly fall behind. So, it’s no wonder that just 14% of children on the streets finish school. Locked out of education, they are forced to survive on the streets.
Out of school, many children in Kisumu search through dangerous rubbish dumps looking for plastic and metal to sell
But no child should be locked out of learning.
Back, in November 2022 we launched a project to help children on the streets thrive in school! With support from TheirWorld, and with our partner KUAP, we used our flagship Learning Support Assistant model to give 200 children the chance to learn.
We’ve trained 20 new Learning Support Assistants. They act like Teaching Assistants in the UK and provide one-on-one support to children with additional needs in the classroom. The difference they make is phenomenal. 60% of children working with a Learning Support Assistant perform above average in their class!
“They brought us a [Learning Support Assistant] who teaches so well!” One child told us. “When I first joined class five, I didn’t know anything, and I couldn’t learn. But since she started teaching me, I do better than others in the class!”
And no child should face violence and abuse at home.
Alongside support in the classroom, it’s vital that we support children to have a happy and healthy life at home. It is only then that we ensure they don’t grow up on the streets.
Our specially trained Violence Prevention Activists visit children in their homes. They work with parents to build honest and open relationships, improving the lives of children by addressing the underlying causes that lead to them leaving home for the streets. And they’re also there to report serious violence and abuse against children so they’re safe and can get the support they need.
“My mother and I didn’t get along well in the house. We would argue and would storm out.” Another child told us how he nearly ended up on the streets. “But now, since [the Violence Prevention Activist] visited us, we get along well.”
Can you help to train a Learning Support Assistant and change a child’s life today?
It costs £20 to train a Learning Support Assistant. They can be the difference between a child staying in school or ending up on the streets. Will you please give £20 today?
Images 1 and 3 copyright Arete/ Brian Ongoro on behalf of Chance for Childhood