The consequences are striking. Decline, empty buildings, alcoholism, and family violence are driving children towards the streets more and more in search of breathing space. Although children have to go to school, we regularly see students skipping school, or they are sent backwards and forwards because of their too expressive behaviour.
GTW Gliwice has been committed to supporting children, young people and families in the region since 2004. They do this by organising sports activities, preventative and sensitising activities, cultural activities and street work.
To this end, they focus specifically on a few districts within the city where the most vulnerable children live. The Baildona and Zatorze districts were created in the early 20th century to accommodate workers in the steel and rail industries. After the demise of both industries, most residents became unemployed. Today, these two districts are considered social ghettos and have the dubious honour of being the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the city. The mine is still operational in Sośnica. However, this district is very remote, leaving the children with limited opportunities to participate in the city's cultural and sporting programmes.
These three districts are characterised by a high degree of unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction and aggression, mainly in the form of hooliganism. In the city and in public institutions such as schools and social services, children from these districts are considered inferior. The children feel this and identify themselves with it.
The local team of street educators will now actively work with the mobile school to further explore the potential of these children on the street. The street sessions with the mobile school help them to provide the children with fun play and learning moments. Through these constructive interactions, children learn to discover and express themselves in a positive way, as opposed to the social exclusion they experience otherwise.
The 50th mobile school?
This year we have already started up a mobile school project in Kenya and we will start up another one in Malawi in the summer. Meanwhile the fourth mobile school in Poland is certainly a milestone for our organisation. A question then arises. Should we be celebrating that there are 50places in the world where a mobile school is needed?
We took a responsibility years ago to commit ourselves to children living, working or hanging around on the streets.What do we see years later? The number of children on the streets is still increasing. Increasing migration, crisis situations and climate change are driving people to the cities where more and more people are resorting to life on the streets. Often this is done from a sense of hope and a search for improvement.
The reality on the streets remains harsh. You have to stand strong to survive on the streets and we have noticed over the years that children on the streets build up skills to deal with those difficult situations, but opportunities are often denied to help them fully develop. Every mobile school that was brought in gave colour to the streets and became a meeting place where children and young people could dream, experiment and believe in their own abilities.
That we have already been able to achieve this in 50 places is perhaps a reason for a modest party. Because we are proud that we have already been able to do this. But we know that there are still many places waiting for a bit more colour in the streets.
Cheers! One more then! Onto the next 50 ?!