|Effective Corporate Sector Strategies aimed at Alleviating the Plight of Street Children (Development Consultancy Services, 1996)|
The plant level programmes being advocated in this Guidebook are designed to meet the needs of children living on the streets and not those working on the streets while living at home. However, as indicated in the previous sections, there are those children working in the informal sector who can be classified as belonging to an in-between group - who because of deteriorating conditions within the family home could become bona fide street children within a very short time. In this situation, it can be argued, such children are the ones who require priority attention if the objective of reintegration is to be most effectively achieved. If a 'new' street child can be counselled before coming under the influence of an already 'street-wise' new friend then the task of reintegration should be relatively simple. On the other hand, the lack of educational opportunities, along with the incidence of malnutrition, the lure of drugs and glue as well as the attraction of prostitution as a potential source of income are problems that beset all children of the streets regardless of the length of time he or she may have endured such deprivation.
Despite the emphasis of the preceding paragraph, it is important to bear in mind that the old adage "prevention is better than cure" is relevant when considering the problems of street children. Actions designed to prevent children taking to the streets should therefore be considered as part of an all embracing appropriate strategy which involves family welfare education directed to 'delinquent parents' rather than 'wayward children'.
Potential programmes may take any of a variety of forms. For convenience these may be considered within four broad categories which, however, are not mutually exclusive. These are:
· Centre Based
· Street Based
· Factory/Community Based
· Training Based
Regardless of the category, the real and financial input can vary considerably. It can range from tens of thousands of $US a year to P 100 per month - a figure which the Southville Seed Foundation of Paranaque request to sponsor the continuing primary education of a poor urban child.
It is however, important to bear in mind that one is not talking about increasing the flow of charitable giving. 'Handouts' are not called for. What is being advocated is the development and implementation of a systematic structured approach which will be part of a coordinated activity designed to alleviate what is, at the present time, a growing social (and economic) problem within the urban communities of the Philippines.
Centre Based Programmes
There are many Centres scattered throughout Metro Manila run by a variety of concerned NGO's. The average Centre generally provides residential accommodation for around 30 children. If interested, an industrial/commercial undertaking could either undertake to become involved by providing financial support to cover one or more clearly identifiable costs in one of these on-going institutions or look closely at such an existing NGO institution and, on the basis of these observations, develop a specific company Centre along somewhat similar lines. The latter approach is the one being recommended as it is likely to have much more potential to become a permanent activity than a programme limited to the provision of financial support to an on-going institution. At the same time, the fact that there is a clearly identifiable company-provided street children centre can be used to stimulate interest and potential inputs (both physical and financial) on the part of the general work force.
The involvement of the work force, preferably through the leadership of the union at plant level, should be a clear objective of any corporate sector programme.
At the present time, three types of shelter facilities may be identified. These are:
1. Drop-in Centres;
2. Temporary Centres;
3. Residential Homes.
Each type of Centre offers somewhat similar facilities to street children, but all are safe-havens where children can avoid the dangers of the streets, particularly at night. Basically they all offer shelter, food, informal education, and counselling. Within each type, some Centres are also able to provide recreational facilities such as television and games. It is also possible for Centre staff to assist with the coordination of income-generating activities, but this type of service is more common in Vietnam where security regulations are tighter than those prevailing in the Philippines and there is, in consequence, a greater need to comply with the law. Where such facilities are made available, it is soon found that the children adopt a more 'professional' approach to their earning activities which works to the benefit of all in terms of income generation. However, perhaps of greater significance is that such 'professionalism' is an important ingredient in the reintegration process which is a major objective of all programmes designed to alleviate the plight of street children.
As the name implies, children need not reside in Drop-in Centres. They may just drop in at times of maximum stress; when they wish to avoid a particular problem; or when they just require to talk to someone. However, most drop-in centres usually have facilities which enable them to take in children for two to three months, after which time, if the children have not been reunited with their families, they are either referred or transferred to other residential facilities. However, it is often the case that children stay somewhat longer because they cannot be reunited with their families or other arrangements have yet to be found for them. In the majority of cases, children are reluctant to leave. Such a situation emphasises the fact that coercion is absent, rules and regulations are at a minimum, but conversely, understanding, tolerance and trust abound. These are the key elements in the running of a successful Centre and are attributes that must be emphasised when appointing staff to run a Centre.
Temporary Shelters differ from drop-in centres only to the extent that they are prepared to take in children for a longer period. They provide shelter for between six months to a year and generally on a less casual basis. The 'drop-in' concept which implies instant access at times of greatest pressure on the street child is absent here. To that extent, the drop-in centre could be said to provide a more important service than temporary shelters.
The third category of accommodation comprises Residential Homes. These differ from drop-in centres and temporary shelters in two respects. First, they provide care for children for much longer periods, usually from six months up to four years, but in some cases children stay indefinitely until they reach the upper age limit of 18 years. Second, the homes put greater emphasis on returning the children to the community, either through facilitating reconciliation with the family or by preparing the older children for independent living within the community. This implies a greater attention being given to improving income generating activities.
There are four major cost items involved in establishing the basic elements of any one of the different types of Centre discussed in the preceding paragraphs. One is an initial cost while the other three are recurring.
The non-recurring cost consists of three parts: first, that necessary to obtain premises be it a purchase price or rent for a minimum number of years, second, that involved in bringing the fabric up to standard; and third, furnishing the centre. There are three elements in the latter component namely beds and bedding; the provision of locker facilities for children; and furnishing the living area, including the provision of adequate facilities for study. To set up a centre capable of looking after about 30 children would probably require an initial input of about $US 6,000.
A company deciding to set up a centre could probably utilise some of its regular labour force to improve the fabric. This would then involve only a limited direct financial input. On the other hand, the nature of the recurrent costs is such that there is little scope for financial savings. These costs consist of three clearly identifiable major inputs namely:
1. Rent (if the premises have not been purchased outright);
Again with about 30 children in mind, a reasonable annual cost would be around $ US 20,000.
If a small/medium size company wishes to become involved in a centre based strategy but feels that the costs involved are too large, they need not go it alone. There are three alternative approaches available. The first is to identify another corporate sector company anxious to participate in street children activities and combine to share the costs of a jointly developed centre. The second is to invite a community based organisation such as a Rotary or Lions Club to contribute to the recurring costs of a new centre. The third is to seek out a concerned NGO or church group currently running a centre with which it could work. The company could then undertake to cover one or two of the three main cost factors identified in the preceding paragraph.
Street Based Programmes
There are two major types of activity that may be regarded as street based programmes but both are generally better implemented when they are associated with a centre based activity. In fact, they may be considered as an 'outreach programme' of a centre. They are however, presented separately as they can each well stand on their own from the point of view of funding. The two programmes are:
1. Supplementary feeding; and
2. Street education.
Malnutrition is probably the most common characteristic of street children. The need for medical services on the part of street children can, more often than not, be traced back to malnutrition. Drug abuse generally begins as an escape from the pangs of hunger as all too often the meagre amount earned as a result of a lone day's labour is not adequate to provide a sufficient intake of food. The desire for an adequate supply of food will always take priority over the wish for better shelter even when the weather is at its worst. Some sort of shelter can always be found, but an adequate intake of food is another matter. Given this situation, the provision of supplementary feeding programmes must be a priority consideration.
Most supplementary feeding programmes use an established location to provide a hot evening meal consisting of rice, vegetables and meat. Usually such programmes seek to feed a given number of between 50 and 100 children on a regular daily basis, 365 days a year. Those coming to the identified point need not be the same children each day, but the supply has to be such that the regular predetermined number can be fed. Given the type of meal provided, it is most appropriate to have the meal produced and consumed at an established drop-in centre. While the supplementary feeding programme can be considered an integral part of the regular activities of the drop-in centre, it is advantageous to see it as a separate activity from an accounting and hence a funding point of view. In this way an organisation can be responsible for funding the feeding programme while not being involved in any other way with the drop-in centre.
A rough upper estimate of the annual cost of providing a supplementary feeding programme catering for between 50 and 75 children each day would be about $US 10,000
Most of the children living on the streets have not completed primary education and do not currently attend school. Most are bright and many are ambitious, but without an adequate educational background their prospects are limited. If their ambitions are to be realised, they require additional education.
Generally street children are alienated from the rest of society which is often the result of abuse and harsh treatment. This is especially so from the police, many of whom implement campaigns to "clean up the streets" with excessive vigour and appear to regard all children as criminals despite the fact that only a minority engage in petty crime detrimental to society at large. Because of their degrading experiences, there is always the tendency for children to be sucked further and further into what has been eloquently described as a "black sub-culture", despite their generally and genuinely expressed wish to reform. If the situation of street children is to improve, there is a clear need for them to obtain guidance in the context of moral, social and religious issues as well as being taken forward in terms of their ability with the conventional "3 R's". These are the main areas which street educators set out to deal with but their functions include the provision of advice with respect to medical services and general counselling which enable the children to better protect themselves.
Street educators must be able to effectively communicate with the children who are generally distrustful of adults. The street educators must be seen as allies rather than enemies: they must be seen as supportive rather than threatening. Consequently there must not be too big an age gap between educator and pupil. Appropriately qualified young educators must be more than middle-class do-gooders; they must be dedicated to the task and in order to build up an appropriate relationship with the children, they must become completely immersed in street life. They must be prepared to spend a large part of their time on the streets not simply in performing an education role but in getting to know the children, and in so doing, gaining their trust. Over time, the children will be prepared to divulge their basic concerns and ambitions and a committed street educator can then help in seeking ways to deal with these issues. Clearly what is required of the street educator is not so much academic qualifications or social work training but an ability to convey human kindness and understanding. Hence in order to be effective in this sort of activity, it is necessary to be in tune with the human and physical environment in which one operates.
While it is not essential that street educators work out of drop-in centres, there is an obvious advantage if they do. They then have an institution to which they can refer the children that they encounter on the streets who are in most need of centre based assistance. Another advantage is that they can get to know the children who frequent the drop-in centre and then attempt to create friendships between these children and those without such contacts.
As street educators have to spend a lot of time on the streets, at all hours of the day and night, it is inevitable that they will not have family commitments of their own. It is also more than likely that they will be relatively young. Given their social conscience, they will not expect to receive a high level of remuneration, hence the cost of this form of action requires only a modest level of financial support. The funding of an individual street educator over a period of a year is well within the reach of even the smallest commercial unit. Alternatively, a larger company may decide to finance a team of street educators. Such teams can be made up of generalists or specialists. Drugmaker's Laboratories Inc. for example, is involved with the Sidewalk Sunday School Project (SSS) which may be seen as an example of specialist activity. The SSS now operates in many parts of Metro Manila bringing an interdenominational religious ministry to children aged between 6 and 12 years. The presentation is upbeat, dynamic and simple. It is filled with music, games, lessons and activities that can both catch and hold a child's attention. It is entertaining as well as educational.
Factory/Community Based Programmes
Factory/Community based programmes can be seen as both curative and preventive.
Preventive action includes family welfare education programmes with which many industrial undertakings in the Philippines have been involved for many years. As one participant at the 1996 PMAP Convention observed, "perhaps the priority should be given not to helping street children but preventing the emergence of 'Delinquent Parents'!" Programmes which discuss family welfare, responsible parenthood and the significance of family size can clearly have an impact in preventive terms. So too can those programmes which develop income generating skills and access to social services. This is also true of programmes which emphasise the significance of primary education.
It is estimated that about 40 out of every 100 students drop out of school before reaching 6th Grade. Though the Philippine educational system offers free elementary and high school education in public schools, parents still have to provide for incidental expenses, the most important of which are school uniforms, snacks and travel. These are the costs which many cannot afford. Parents who cannot afford to send their children to school, simply don't. Consequently some 400,000 students drop out of school every year. Most cannot find jobs and therefore many take to the streets, first as urban informal sector workers but then as street children. If a parent were to be given funds to cover the cost of two school uniforms, P 20 or so per day for snacks, and another P 10 per day for jeepney fares for each child, then the primary school drop-out rate would fall dramatically. The annual sum involved per child would be no more than $US 45. If only the cost of school uniforms were covered, a significant change would take place. The corporate sector could begin to make an impact on school drop-out rates by providing additional funds to all their workers who have children. This could be seen as a legitimate request on the part of the trade unions.
Fr. Pierre Tritz S.J., the President of the Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation (ERDA), based in Quezon City, points out that the most formative period in the life of a child is when it is aged between 3 - 5 years, that is the immediate pre-school years. From this premise, Fr. Tritz argues that pre-school education is of vital importance in the development of the child. In the context of street children issues, the hypothesis is that if a child attends a pre-school class, then interest in learning is awakened at the correct time and he or she will develop an almost insatiable desire for learning. Consequently the child, rather than becoming a willing primary school drop-out, will do everything to remain in school even if it means going against parental wishes. Hence the potential for taking to the streets is considerably reduced. Through the Foundation ERDA has established over 240 pre-school classes in slum areas throughout Metro Manila. Each class has facilities for around 30 children. The overall cost of each class is $US 1,020 per year and this sum provides pre-school education for 30 children. As Fr. Tritz emphasises, this aggregate annual cost for 30 children is less than the unit cost of providing private pre-school education for one child!!
An examination of the prevailing opportunity for such enterprise in the poorer barangays located in the vicinity of their plant is something that many industrialists could favourably consider given the low cost and high (but unquantifiable) benefit of such an activity.
The potential for such preventive programmes should be attractive to small to medium enterprises wishing to embark on factory/community programmes. There are, however, also opportunities to embark on curative action within the factory/community framework.
Given both the prevalence to undernourishment found amongst children on the streets as well as the high risk of accidents as a result of the sometimes heavy work which informal sector child workers have to undertake, the need for medical facilities amongst street children is relatively high. To this must also be added the incidence amongst street children of self-induced suffering as a result of alcohol and/or drug abuse. Regardless of the primary causal factor, the medical needs generally remain unmet thus aggravating the plight of those children who are unfortunate enough to become sick or injured.
An awareness of such problems on the part of the corporate sector could result in individual companies being prepared to make their clinic facilities available to help alleviate the situation. The staff of drop-in centres in the immediate neighbourhood of the factory could be made aware of the fact that plant level medical facilities would be available for sick children whenever possible. Another way in which assistance could be provided to sick street children could be to encourage medical and paramedic staff from the industrial sector to undertake voluntary work involving street children within the immediate environs of the plant, or alternatively, management could allow such activities to be regarded as a normal part of the work schedule at specified times. Making staff and clinic facilities available in this way would involve little direct monetary cost while the real cost would also be relatively small.
PHILACOR has been one of the pioneers in the development of family welfare programmes in the Philippines and over the past two decades, special attention to the family concerns of its employees has been a priority area within the company. Believing that a happy family life contributes to the productive potential of every employee, the company, under the dynamic leadership of the late Mr. Eliseo V. Cruz, Vice-President for Industrial Relations and Employee Services - who was assassinated in 1989 - as well as the able positive support of the company President Mr. Dante G. Santos, developed a multi-faceted family welfare programme which expanded and diversified during the decade of the 'eighties. At that time, the PHILACOR Family Welfare Program, which actively encouraged the involvement of all employees, became a model not only for other companies in the Philippines but for companies located throughout the world. Not content with the leadership role attained in the 1980's, PHILACOR has continued to diversify its family welfare programme. The latest innovation is the concept of an Annual Children's Summer Camp. This idea was conceived in 1993 since when the Camp has been held each summer. It is open to all children of PHILACOR employees aged between six and twelve years old. The programme aims to give the participants a chance to experience outdoor living and to instill in them positive values and attitudes such as obedience, trust, perseverance, sharing and work. The 1996 programme which was held at Mt. Makiling, Laguna, was attended by 44 children under the leadership of members of the Family Welfare Council of PHILACOR. This is an interesting programme supported by the work force of the company and, like the other family welfare initiatives, can only have a positive impact on productivity. It is worthy of replication in other companies.
Such a programme, however, could be expanded to include a small number of street children selected from the immediate environs of the factory compound. The addition of three or four street children to a party of about 40 -50 would not add significantly to the cost of the programme or the amount of effort required of the staff at the camp. Meanwhile, the positive values being instilled into the 'company' participants would be equally as relevant for street children. They would also benefit from mixing with ordinary children for a short period. This would enable them to see the positive side of family life and perhaps stimulate a desire for reintegration on their part.
It may be argued that the mixing of street children with children from families could have a negative effect on some from the latter group. Although this may be true, it is unlikely given the fact that there would only be a very small minority of street children in the party and they would, in all probability, be most anxious not to spoil what to them would be a unique and positive experience.
This idea of mixing street children with the children of company employees may be taken a stage further by considering inviting a small but positively selected number of street children to attend factory sports days or family days. Such mingling would again emphasise positive aspects of family life.
The implementation of these ideas in the context of a corporate sector approach to street children issues would have an impact on such a small number of street children that its relevance may be questioned. Admittedly its impact would be miniscule. However, what this example does is show that there are all manna of innovative ideas that are capable of having a street children dimension added to them and the cumulative impact of many small actions can, sooner or rata, come to have a not insignificant impact on the overall problem. The objective than is to stimulate personnel directors and corporate Board members to think about the issue of street children and come up with their own innovative ideas, developed in the context of company resources and the extant of the problem in the vicinity of the factory compound.
Training Based Programmes
Skills training can play an important role in the reintegration process of street children.
"Teach them a skill." is an acclaimed solution, but it is not so clear cut when attempts are made to put what on the surface appears to be a positive approach into practice.
Skills training can be costly. Facilities are necessary in tams of appropriate space, skilled teachers, and technological equipment. The time period is necessarily long and, in many situations, residential facilities will be required. Where this is so, it is often only a small step to developing an institutional code which is not far removed in tams of rules and regulations from a reform centre or similar institution. There are numerous examples, especially in Vietnam, of children running away from such residential skills-training centres and once more becoming street children!! If this happens there are no beneficial returns from what has been a costly investment.
What skills should be taught? Clearly only those that are going to be relevant in the future. To teach current skills in an era of technological change can be irrelevant. Again, the teaching of skills can be self-defeating if job opportunities are not available at the completion of training. A skilled but unemployed worker can be more frustrated than a poor street child!! Yet in numerous situations, the skills being taught are not even currently used skills but those applicable to an earlier period which leaders with authority may feel have 'character building' or other equally antiquated attributes. It is essential that skills training is appreciated for what it is - skills training - and not character building or even institutional income generating.
In keeping with a more positive approach to skills training, the Ministry of Education in Thailand is now providing training in computer skills and English language for young girls in the rural areas of Northern Thailand. These are the communities, which until now have been famous, or rather infamous, for the recruitment of child prostitutes. The government now feels that it is important to teach modern skills and so create a strong urban-based income creating potential for the future, rather than teach domestic science or embroidery which would only keep the girls in the village until they were enticed into the sex industry of the urban areas. With the teaching of modern skills which will meet a high labour demand, the children will be able to enter the industrial sector from a position of relative strength.
Prior to developing a skills training facility it is essential that research is carried out to identify the FUTURE requirements of the industrial sector so that the training given will be relevant.
It is also important that any skills training programme includes an element of on-the-job training. Not only does this provide a crucial element to the actual training but it also enables the student to appreciate the advantages of working within the formal sector, while at the same time facilitating contacts with a company that can ease the ultimate job seeking process.
The fact that skills training programmes require a proven level of conventional education as a prerequisite, should not be overlooked. It may be necessary for street children to undertake initial intensive formal education courses to bring them up to the necessary entry standard for a skills training course. This is something that street educators are not likely to be able to provide. However, they can inspire likely children to re-enter formal education in an effort to bring themselves up to the necessary entry standard for skills training. It is therefore appropriate to consider skills training as an evolutionary process. The street educators concentrate on the younger element of the street children population, say those in the 10 - 12 year old category, and stimulate them to spend some time, at least half of each day, in formal education for the next three to four years. Then, when they are about 15 or 16 years old they are able to progress to technical training be it in a technical high school or skills training centre. This is the approach taken by the Christina Noble Foundation which is based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Christina Noble herself grew up as a street child and appreciated this evolutionary format, so that the Foundation now sponsors street educators; organises and runs its own half day formal education classes (the children attend for half of each day, but the classes run for the full day on the basis of a shift system); and supports the government skills training centres.
An additional expenditure which is involved in the process described in the preceding paragraph, which consequently has to be covered from external sources, is the provision of technical education at the post-15 year old level. ERDA has estimated that the overall cost of such education works out at over $US 1,000 per head per year. There is, therefore, an opportunity for membres of the corporate sector to consider providing a limited number of scholarships or fellowships to meet this need. These could be made on a general basis or, perhaps of greater positive consequence for the recipient, tied to future employment with the company.
Clearly there is a role for corporate sector involvement in training based programmes.
First there is the opportunity to provide on-the-job facilities as a relevant essential input into any skills training programme, be that programme implemented by the government or the corporate sector. There is, however, a more substantive role that can be filled, and that is to become directly involved in the establishment of relevant skills training facilities. This may be done in conjunction with the government or a major concerned NGO but it is hoped that skills training centres will in future be devised, developed and implemented exclusively by the corporate sector. The development of such skills training initiatives will, however, be a costly undertaking.
There are a number of alternative possibilities in this context. Larger firms, especially substantial outposts of multi-national companies, could invest in their own centres providing skilled workers for ultimate employment both in their own company as well as in others. Such a development could become more attractive if appropriate tax incentives were to be made available by the government. What, however, is likely to be more feasible, is for a number of companies to combine in establishing a centre.
There is every possibility that the 170 or so members of the Philippine Business for Social Progress Foundation (PBSP) could be persuaded to become involved in this type of activity. The considerable resources of PBSP stem from the dedication of member companies to deliver solutions to poverty through programmes which develop the quality of life. Hence it would not be inappropriate if members were to seek to improve the plight of street children who, despite many being both bright and innovative, are clearly amongst the poorest of the poor.
There is a great deal to be said for encouraging the larger institutions within the corporate sector to become directly involved in the provision of skills training facilities through the provision of the considerable financial inputs required. However, if this is to happen, it must be done in a coordinated way. Companies should be discouraged from acting in an ad hoc independent manna. In no way must an element of competition enter into the situation otherwise duplication could well arise. If companies wishing to provide skills training facilities belong to the PBSP, than the Foundation would be in an ideal position to take the lead in the development of a coordinated programme, otherwise a special committee of ECOP or PMAP could be established to oversee such a development. At the same time government must be involved in terms of planning and implementation through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Education and the Department of Labor and Employment.
The idea to encourage the corporate sector to become involved in the provision of skills training facilities for street children is an attractive one, especially if it can be tied in with appropriate tax incentives. However, there is likely to be a considerable obstacle to the development of such an innovative concept. What will be the attitude of the current work force? Jobs are scarce. All children, not just street children are in need of skills training. Why should street children be treated more favourably than those children who have remained at home? Most workers have large numbers of children of school age. Are their children to be discriminated against? These are strong arguments and they must not be neglected. Help and assistance must be given to the children of workers as well as to street children. In terms of skills training, there must be no discrimination. Street children must be treated no different than any other children. If this principle is established, than there is a chance of progress for all.
A wide variety of possible corporate sector interventions for the benefit of street children has been presented in this section. With the exception of the establishment of skills training facilities, the implied financial inputs are relatively modest if one is thinking of individual community based action. In fact, the annual cost of maintaining a drop-in centre to accommodate 30 children is probably the most costly and this need not be more than $US 20,000, which in terms of current profit margins enjoyed by the larger companies, is relatively small. At the other extreme is the figure of P 100 per month which will provide the needed support for the primary education of a poor urban child. Specific needs can be identified at any point between these two extremes. This is perhaps the main attraction in engaging in the activity of contributing to the alleviation of the plight of street children. As long as one is dealing with the issues at community level, the needs can be analysed in such a way that any proposed input can be geared to the level of resources available.
The national problem may be immense; the city problem may be frightening when seen in tams of maybe tens of thousands, there may be many street children within the immediate community of the workplace. However, the street children situation even at community level, is capable of being broken down into even smaller groups than the aggregate within the community. Hence the action a company may decide to take will be determined by the financial contribution required, which is geared to the resources available within the company. If the majority of the institutions within the corporate sector of a country or city are interested in working to help street children, then each need only do what they can in order to develop a programme for a particular group. In this way the overall action can be impressive.