Impacts of living with disability as a street child
School as a street child
Street children are rarely enrolled in formal education. They are often excluded from normal classrooms, which can make learning more difficult. Instead, those who are in education tend to use local programmes with teaching that is better tailored to the needs of street children (1). This includes time for children to work to support themselves or their families (1). These programmes have been vital in supporting street children as education is often essential for them to survive extreme poverty (2).
Regardless of the school system, it is common for street children to face many difficulties with education due to poverty, discrimination and difficulty getting to school. Like street children, it is also common for children living with disability to experience discrimination, bullying and isolation while at school (1;3). Due to the discrimination already experienced by street children in education, it is easy to imagine how street children also impacted by disability can find education even more challenging, whether in formal education or in street-connected programmes. Therefore, street children living with disability often experience even more hardship at school (4).
Lack of resources for street children with disabilities
Particularly in low-income areas, school budgets cannot afford for funds to be directed towards the needs of special needs children (3). For example, classrooms are often too noisy for children with hearing difficulties to learn and those with visual and physical disabilities cannot be given the support they need for them to manage their impairments at school (2). Therefore, programmes aiming to improve the inclusion of street children in education, whether that be formal or those tailored for street children, are very important. Education is suggested to be the single most effective way for a street child to thrive (2). Furthermore, if on their own, being out of school can force a street child to fend for themselves all day and all night.
What can be done to help
Mobile schools and financial help
Some projects aim to provide a school format for street children which allows time for work, due to many also needing to work on the streets to support themselves and potentially their families (1). For example, the Mobile School NPO created by the CSC Network helps to support street children by delivering teaching in remote areas. This allows them to learn in an open and accessible environment.
Another benefit of programmes like the Mobile School is that they are scalable. In addition, Street Child’s ‘Family Business for Education’ model has made progress in tackling the social and financial barriers experienced by street children and children with disabilities (5). Through this programme, families receive training in developing and saving a stable income, which helps them send their children to school. ‘Family Business for Education’ has been extremely successful by helping more than 50,000 children attend school. Education is vital in helping street children move out of poverty, allowing them to live healthier adult lives (1).
Promoting inclusion of street children with disabilities
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are continuing to develop interventions which are inclusive of street children. Street Child is keen to make education more accessible and inclusive for those living with disability (5). They are continuing to train teachers to promote an inclusive environment which is supportive of their students (5)
Similarly, Chance for Childhood has worked with partners via Comic Relief in Western Kenya, to improve the quality and accessibility of education for street children with additional needs (6). This project is called ‘LEAP’ and one of its main objectives is to promote the inclusion of street children with disabilities. ‘LEAP’ workers believe that children living with disability should be included in formal school, rather than enrolled into separate education (6). They feel that this inclusion is essential to tackle the negative attitudes towards street children and disability. It can be challenging to bring these children back into mainstream education as they can have specific needs. However, with particular support it is possible (6).
Specialist education programmes
The view of ‘LEAP’ is important. However, not all projects aim to re-introduce street children to mainstream education. It is sometimes necessary for street children to have access to an alternative school format as some feel that formal education is not a priority (1;7). Therefore, it is important to communicate with children about their needs. Tailored programmes may suit some street children better. However, further projects which focus on the needs of street children with disabilities as an individual group are needed within schools. If we continue to tackle the stigma surrounding these children, we can hope to improve their education, whether in tailored education or formal school (1;7).
- Clark J. Realising street children’s right to education | CSC [Internet]. Consortium for Street Children. 2019 [cited 25 August 2021]. Available from: https://www.streetchildren.org/news-and-updates/realising-street-childrens-right-to-education/#_edn1
- On International Day of Persons with Disabilities we Advocate for Inclusive Education — Street Child [Internet]. Street Child. 2019 [cited 24 August 2021]. Available from: https://www.street-child.co.uk/blog/2019/12/4/on-international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-we-advocate-inclusive-education
- Mizunoya S, Mitra S, Yamasaki I. Towards Inclusive Education The impact of disability on school attendance in developing countries, Innocenti Working Paper 2016-03 [Internet]. UNICEF, office of research; 2016. Available from: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/IWP3%20-%20Towards%20Inclusive%20Education.pdf
- Weimert F. Discrimination is the biggest obstacle to education for children with disabilities — Street Child Switzerland [Internet]. Street Child Switzerland. 2018 [cited 5 May 2021]. Available from: https://www.street-child.ch/news/discrimination-education-children-with-disabilities
- Nepal — Street Child [Internet]. Street Child. 2021 [cited 25 August 2021]. Available from: https://www.street-child.co.uk/nepal
- LEAP from the Street – Learning, Educating And Protecting: Our new education project for street children in Kisumu, Kenya. | Chance for Childhood – Children’s charity [Internet]. Chance for Childhood. 2016 [cited 25 August 2021]. Available from: https://chanceforchildhood.org/latest-news/leap-street-learning-educating-protecting-new-education-project-street-children-kisumu-kenya/
- Turgut N. The protection and promotion of human rights for street connected children: legal, policy and practical strategies for change [Internet]. Consortium for Street Children; 2017. Available from: https://www.streetchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/gravity_forms/1-07fc61ac163e50acc82d83eee9ebb5c2/2017/04/CSC_Briefing-Paper_March-2017_FINAL-Hi-res_No-crops.pdf