According to UNICEF (2005), there are more than 100 million street children. It is, however, very difficult to determine the exact number of street children. Children on the streets are frightened of being registered. In addition, the term ‘street child’ is difficult to define since it comprises a diverse group of children: children living on the streets permanently, children on the move and children hanging around on the streets.
A growing world population, ongoing conflict situations, the economical crisis and a growing urbanisation result in an increase of the number of street children, up to about 150 million.
Street children are not merely a phenomenon of developing countries. In the United States, Canada and in different European countries there are children who spend the majority of their time on the streets as well.
Life on the streets
Children on the streets are confronted with a number of challenges on a daily basis: a lack of basic facilities, violence, abuse, diseases and discrimination. Years of experience on the streets have made us realise that apart from all these problems, children on the streets have a lot of strengths. They are incredibly resilient, have a positive focus, are creative and can switch between competition and collaboration at the right time.
Mobile School builds upon this strength of street children. We construct mobile schools and train street educators worldwide to work with these schools on wheels. All materials and games are aimed at boosting self-esteem and identity, discovering talents and empowerment. This way, we build a solid foundation of self-confidence, of a belief in their own abilities and of motivation on the streets, a necessary base for further growth processes.
Since 1996, Mobile School has implemented 45 mobile schools in 24 countries. In 2016, the local organisations we cooperate with realised more than 60,000 contacts with street children worldwide during 3000 street sessions with the mobile schools.
A worldwide network
Not only Mobile School is organising something special to celebrate the International Day of Street Children. Our partner organisations worldwide are joining in as well:
- In Albania, our partner organisation ARSIS is organising a big event. In 8 tents, children can play different games, while a team of 11 street workers invites street children to partake in the activities.
- Street families in the Philippines will make artworks of their dreams during a special activity of partner organisation Virlanie.
- Partner organisation Kivuko is turning the tables in Tanzania. There, street-connected children will explain how the mobile school works to other children, since they are the local experts.
- Our partner organisations in Mexico, Alimentos para la Vida and Yolia, are participating in a two day-forum about vulnerable children on the streets, during which they will give a presentation to college students about the work with the mobile school and life on the streets.
- On top of that, special activities will be organised in Nicaragua, India, Bangladesh, Poland and Greece.
Street children high on international agenda
Mobile School is a member of the Consortium for Street Children (CSC), a global network of 90 organisations. The CSC dedicates itself to promote the rights of street children internationally. The past 12 years they have been lobbying for April 12th to be officially recognised as the International Day for Street Children (www.streetchildrenday.org).
In 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child decided to draw up a policy document about children who grow up on the streets (“The General Comment on Children in Street Situations”) in cooperation with the CSC. Various Mobile School partner organisations participated, representing the voice of the street children they work with.
This document will urge governments to place street children high on the national agenda and to find the necessary budgets to do so. The focus of the document is on:
- Defending the right to be on the streets and not to be criminalised,
- Safeguarding the rights of street children,
- Tackling the daily discrimination against street children,
- Providing extra protection and care for children who do not have a network.
2017 is of crucial importance for Mobile School and for the Consortium for Street Children, since the General Comment will be published and ratified by the different member states of the UN this year.
That’s why the CSC opted to use the hashtag #OurTime17 on social media. Because it’s about time that everyone assumes responsibility in this matter.