|Outreach No. 96 - Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances - Part 1: Working and Street Children (New York University - TVE - UNEP - WWF, 68 p.)|
Child-to-Child Activity Sheet 8.1. This is one of four Child-to-Child Activity Sheets that focus on Children in Difficult Circumstances. Child-to-Child Activity Sheets are resources for teachers and health and community workers. They are designed to help children understand how to improve health in other children, their families and their communities. The text, ideas and activities may be freely adapted to suit local conditions. For further information on Child-to-Child write to: The Child-to-Child Trust, The Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, U.K.
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
Teachers, health workers, street educators: For adaptation to suit local circumstances.
Below are guidelines and activities adapted from the Activity Sheet 8.1 Children who live and work on the street... Many thousands of children live or work on the streets. Even those who have little contact with their home or a school have close contact with other children. Most children look for comfort and support from their friends. Children can help strengthen and build good relationships in their families and in their community. They can learn to respect one another and learn ways of improving their own health and that of others.
Helping children who live or work on the street
Special activities to help children who live or work on the streets can take place in the community, at home, at school or at a special project base.
Here are 10 general guidelines:
1. It is best if the activities help children build up positive relationships with their families and community and give them self respect.
2. No two children are the same. Every child who lives or works on the street needs to be treated as an individual.
3. The jobs done by children in the street involve skills and special talents such as quick thinking, inventiveness, patience and common sense. The strong attachments which children can form help them learn about loyalty and solidarity. Children and other people who want to help must build on these positive qualities.
4. Most children who live or work on the streets would welcome educational activities which allow them to earn at the same time. Flexible schedules help.
5. Time spent on activities should be short and full of action. Children need space to move, play, laugh and dance.
6. As children are so independent, they need to be actively involved in planning activities. Let children suggest what they would like to do, and help them to make choices. Help them learn to listen to each other, and value other people's ideas.
7. A good teacher will help children solve their own difficulties, and not provide them with answers.
8. All activities should be relevant, even when the children plan to use their education as a way out of street life. Reading material can come from everyday things like road signs, shop signs or newspapers. Mathematics can be based upon marketing skills.
9. Those working with street children need to respect, appreciate and encourage them. People who have experienced difficulties in their own childhood often make sympathetic educators.
10. Talk to adults who are important to the children: their leaders or protectors, for example. Getting the cooperation and assistance of those closest to the children will be the best way to help them.
Activities in the community
People in the community need to understand that it is not the children's fault when they live and work on the streets. Instead of blaming the children and treating them as thieves or pests, people need to take positive steps both to help the children living or working on the streets and to prevent more children joining them.
Here are some ideas for community activities that have come from different parts of the world. They have helped children build links with people in the community:
· Community leaders have organised a place for children to meet together. Here the children sing, dance and play games. In some communities, special 'after school clubs' are set up for children whose parents both work. They enjoy doing activities with their friends in a place where they feel cared for and protected.
· Young people have organised a place where children buy a cheap ticket to watch films. The 'video shed' is a place where children make contact with people and groups who can help them with education, health or sports activities.
· Artisans have provided children with useful training. They help to build children's self-confidence and develop positive attitudes.
· Health workers have organised workshops for children. Children who live or work on the streets know that hearth is important. Illness makes them miserable and prevents them from earning money. The most common diseases for children who live or work on the street are skin diseases, stomach aches, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Once the children learn how to prevent or to treat these ailments, they help to spread this information to their friends.
· Scout groups have organised literacy clubs, recreational games and health and environment projects* for parents and children. These joint activities help restore fragile relationships between children and adults in the community.
* See OUTREACH issue 91 for information about community dean-up campaigns that can help to improve the environment as well as build links between children and adults that take part.
· Children have organised and run sports and organised games. Sport activities help strengthen the children's sense of discipline and earn them respect. They can bring children from different parts of a community together. Children take pride in these activities. They help to organise the activities and raise the money to keep them going.
Activities at school
In a school where children are proud of the role they can play in helping one another, in spreading health messages to the community and in taking responsibility for their environment, there will be fewer difficulties with drop-outs and vandalism.
Special activities in the classroom or at school can do a lot to help children who may be thinking of leaving home or school. Children in school can be made to be more aware of the dangers of street life; they can help to organise and run special activities for out-of-school children; they can encourage drop-outs to return to school.
Here are some activity suggestions:
· Child-to-Child health activities link classroom activities with those in the community and home. These activities help to build children's confidence and make them feel useful and respected. For further details, write to Child-to-Child Trust at the address on page 37.
· Children who have faced the difficulties of life away from home and school can talk to other children about their experiences. Together they can write stones and songs and draw posters which can be used to raise awareness in the community. Concerts, competitions, exhibitions, parents days and open days all help the community to become closer and develop a better understanding of the needs of the school and its children.
· Older children can help organise safe play areas for children from the neighbourhood. They can discuss with their teachers how to set up play areas. They can organise and help care for materials and equipment. They may be able to persuade the head teacher that the school grounds can be used as a neighbourhood play centre after school hours.
· Sports activities can involve children who do not go to school. They can be included in teams or be invited to train or play regularly with school-going children.
· In some schools, special Child-to-Child committees have been set up. They include the head teacher, other teachers and senior pupils. The committees can plan ways to help vulnerable children in the school and the community. For example, the committees can run special 'catch-up clubs' to find children who have dropped out, and encourage them to return to school. Children in the top primary classes can become the 'catch-up club' teachers, and help children to catch up with school work they have missed.
Activities at home
Poverty and ill health can lead to many tensions in a child's home. Parents and other children at home can try to help each other understand the reasons behind these difficulties and try to work out their problems in a positive way.
Here are some activity suggestions:
· If a child is being bad tempered and aggressive at home, other children and adults can try to find out what is wrong. (Children are often better at doing this.) Try to think of things the child can do for the rest of the family which will make him or her feel important and useful.
· Parents whose children have a happy home and school life can teach them to care for and respect children who are worse off. If a child of a 'poor relation' is brought into the family, he or she should be treated with as much respect as the other children.
· Children can make toys to sell or for playing with younger children: footballs, toy cars, etc. Parents and neighbours can make scraps available and encourage toy-making projects.
· Children often find elderly people easy to talk to. They can often form important friendships. Elderly people enjoy talking to children and telling them stories which teach them about their culture and traditions. This helps to build a child's sense of belonging to a family and a community.
Activities at a special project base
A special project base for children living or working on the streets can be a useful place to link up the children with their parents, schools and the rest of the community. It is not helpful for the project base to provide special short term services which separate the children from people in the community who can give them the long-term support they need.
Here are some activity suggestions:
· Children, parents, teachers, employers and others can use the project base as somewhere to discuss problems with a project worker.
· Children and project workers can work together to make contact with their families and start rebuilding family relationships.
· Children with budgeting skills can help less experienced children learn to save and plan.
· Projects can organise special recreation programmes (sports, music, drama, crafts) which also include children living at home and going to school.
· Projects can link artisans with children to teach them income-generating skills, such as soap-making, market gardening, poultry keeping. Children can help to find people they like to help them.
· Children are good at expressing themselves through theatre, music and dance. Some street children earn their living through street performances such as puppet shows, acrobatics and juggling, singing and bands. Projects can encourage performances by children to help to make communities aware of the children's needs in a way that also earns the children respect.
Child-to-Child activities and street children around the world
· The Child-to-Child methods of practical teaching activities have been tried with street children in Belém, Brazil. Teaching sessions were directed at children, many of whom are responsible for younger siblings from an early age, and who have had little previous schooling and minimal opportunity to learn anything other than what they experience on the streets. Their experience of a consistent, affectionate adult-child relationship has almost always been replaced by one which views adults as exploitative towards them, and this they quickly copy. Many of the girls become pregnant before they are 15 years old.
To encourage attendance at the sessions, food and medical support (e.g. for pregnancies, injuries and general ailments) were offered at each session. The teaching sessions were kept short (maximum 30 minutes), were self-contained (because there was no guarantee that children would attend the next session) and were designed to be of immediate relevance to the local situation of the children. Where materials reflecting other cultural experiences were tried, they failed. Timetabling was planned to fit in with the children's commitments (e.g. not at lunchtimes when they were likely to be busiest selling chewing gum, shoe shining, etc., and outdoor sessions were preferred by children so long as the weather was good).
Activities with the street children are ongoing.
· Child-to-Child has received reports from Ethiopia on some projects involving street children:
At the Night shelter, the older children are helping the younger ones with health, hygiene and agriculture.
The children have set up their own committees at the drop-in centre. Committees are: sports, drama, discipline, feeding programme and health clinic. Since the children have taken over, their self-image has improved.
There was an explosion at the ammunition dump nearby and many people became homeless. The children at the drop-in centre were among the first to help and get food and blankets to those children and their families. The community have never forgotten this and since that time have lost their fear of the so-called 'street children' attached to this project.
· In Romania, child 'health messengers' organise activities within a number of action groups to promote ideas and decision-making about health matters throughout the community as a whole. The 'Hot Heart Line' is the name of the health messenger 'action group' which organises joint activities between the health messengers and children in more difficult circumstances. In 1993, health messengers participated in two summer camps with children who usually live or work on the street and children from institutions. Despite some initial difficulties between the children, they soon mixed well and developed close friendships which have continued after camp.