Chance for Childhood has been working in Kenya since 2002 to support street children and street children with disabilities.
- Population: 49.7 million, of which 40% are under 14.
- Human Development Index: 142 out of 188.
- 37% of the population lives on less than £1.50 a day.
- 34% of 7 to 14 year olds have to work.
Despite economic growth and declining poverty in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, extreme poverty is still prevalent in the west of the country. In the third largest city, Kisumu, over half the population live in poverty and 60% live in slums. Many families are unable to provide basic necessities, food and schooling for their children. This poverty forced children on to the streets, looking for work or a way to survive.
Protecting and caring for vulnerable street children
Kisumu is home to a growing number of street children, estimated to be around 1,000. Most of these children come from the Western province, where poverty and neglect are significant factors that push children to a life on the streets. Once on the streets, life is violent and short. The average life expectancy is just 28. Street children are the target of human trafficking and abuse, such as rape and labour exploitation. Without an education, they have little prospect of a better future.
What we’re doing
Protecting street children from the immediate danger of the streets
The danger of the streets never sleeps, so we provide 24/7 access to a temporary shelter along with food and basic healthcare. Street outreach workers go out day and night to reach out to street children who are in danger. Counselling sessions are available at the temporary shelter and we are able to do an initial assessment to see what next steps are best for the child based on their unique needs.
Reuniting children with their families
After one year, 78% of children reunified with their families have not gone back to the streets.
Wherever possible, we seek to reunite street children with their families. We work with the child and their family to resolve the issues that led to the child being thrown out, or running away, in the first place. By helping parents understand the needs of their child, the family can form better and more stable relationships. We also provide positive parenting sessions to help reduce violence in the household. For families that need it, we provide business loans and training to start income-generating activities. This allows them to pay school fees and buy books and pens for their children.
Providing inclusive and quality education
Children living on the streets may not have had any education. We run catch-up lessons, teaching children basic reading and writing skills to bring them up to the level of their peers in mainstream schools. When they are ready, we liaise with mainstream schools to put children back into education.
We also give children with learning disabilities and special educational needs access to education in mainstream schools. We run a successful Learning Support Assistant scheme where we train teaching assistants to provide specialist one-to-one support to children in school.
Meeting the special needs of street children with disabilities
Many children living on the streets in Kisumu have disabilities and special learning needs. Disability presents an extra barrier to street children looking to reintegrate into society and they often face dual discrimination. Parents of children with disabilities are also stigmatised, contributing to a culture of neglect towards children with disabilities.
What we’re doing
As well as providing immediate protection from the danger of the streets, inclusive education and reuniting street children with their families, we are running a dance project aimed at street children with disabilities. Evidence shows that dance can be a meaningful rehabilitative activity for street children and can lead to improved school performance and create a safer and more disability-friendly community.
We run after-school dance lessons for street children with and without disabilities, strengthening inclusion in schools. We also run special classes inviting parents to join in, helping to grow family ties and further reduce the stigma around parents of children with disabilities. As well as this, we put on events in local communities where street children who have been taking part in the dance are invited to perform. Not only does this improve street children’s confidence and self-esteem, but it also creates lasting change by tackling negative attitudes towards street children and street children with disabilities.
Camps for children with learning and communications disabilities
Children with disabilities often face discrimination in their communities. In Kisumu, there is a lack of education surrounding learning and communication disabilities, and often a stigma attached to parents of children with these disabilities. As a result, parents often struggle to care for the children properly – even if they have the best intentions.
What we’re doing
We run specialist communication camps for parents and children. These residential workshops are about promoting innovative, home-based early childhood development, where parents learn how to better care for their children with special needs – such as learning disabilities or cerebral palsy. For example, learning techniques to communicate with their children along with playful activities to stimulate intellectual engagement. The workshops provide a great opportunity for parents to come together and share their experience, and brings children with similar disabilities together. Following the initial training, parents are encouraged to join self-help peer support groups which offer ongoing support for both children and parents.
- Voices from the ground: Teaching dance to street children
- Voices from the ground: Meet Philip, an outreach worker doing amazing work with street children in Kenya
- ‘Street-connected children with communication disabilities and their caregivers in Western Kenya: experiences, beliefs and needs’. Read the research article (2019).
Street children with disabilities in Kenya: experiences and needs. Read the leaflet (2019).
- Supporting street children’s special educational needs through learning support assistants in Kenya. Read the article in the Enabling Education Review (2017).