Children living and working on the streets
The lifestyle of street children has to be taken into account when designing education and rehabilitation programmes. Most successful programmes have a phased and integrated approach. In the first instance, peer or adult street workers reach out to street children to establish contact and gain their trust by involving them in street education activities, motivating them to participate in educational programmes and helping them acquire the basic skills that will enable them to learn in a structured environment. They need help to adjust to adult authority after being used to surviving on their own and developing a variety of defence mechanisms against adults who may have exploited them or who may have violated their rights. They are often hostile or intimidated by adult authority figures in schools, even in child-focused programmes. Street education programmes, which provide an atmosphere of freedom and democratic consultation, and which build up rapport gradually and develop trust, have been more effective than enrolment in formal schools, especially at the initial re-entry stages.
Non-formal education programmes are usually needed for a smoother transition between life and work on the streets and formal schooling. Special attention has to be paid to matching the learning methodology and process to the learning styles of street children. Hands-on-learning, experimentation and observation, and learning-by-doing are what they have been doing to survive. Many street children may not be "school smart" but they are certainly "street smart". They are adept at problem-solving and assessing situations from the perspective of survival. They have worked, and will assess the relevance of schooling to their immediate future in the world of work. It must be worthwhile for them to decrease their time on the streets and spend it in the classroom learning skills that help them improve their life.
Many street children also need counselling services to cope with traumatic experiences of violence, sexual exploitation or other harassment at home or on the street. Rehabilitation for substance abuse may also be necessary. Such support services should be a priority before the children can be expected to attend school and stay there.
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