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June news update
Streets Ahead
June 17, 2005

School boysBack to school
Streets Ahead pays school fees, uniforms and educational materials for potential children living and working on the streets. Corporate, national and International NGOs have been providing Streets Ahead with funds for the children to go and attend school. Our main objectives as Streets Ahead is to see the children we support complete their tertiary education.

In April 2005 Streets Ahead sent two children to boarding school at Mutendi High School in Masvingo and Richmond College in Nyazura. The two boys successfully qualified our assessments tests where we ask questions to see if a child is ready for a long-term commitment such as attending school. One of the boys passed his grade seven examinations while he was living on the streets. Even though he lived on the streets he had a strong desire to sit for grade 7 examinations.

The education department sent six additional children to Mazowe Bridge for primary and secondary education. 32 children with the majority in the foster home supported by Streets Ahead are all in schools in their local community. We try to encourage children to go to school within their communities because it is more sustainable in the long term. Our priority is the reunification of children with their families. It is also easy for children from a home environment to attend school. Some of the children have told us that the streets are not a conducive environment to promote educational development. Guidance and supervision of homework on the streets is not readily available.

In November 2004 UNICEF, Streets Ahead and a representative from the department of Social Welfare attended a reunification where four children were reunited with their families. After three months Streets Ahead made a follow up visit to see whether the children were copping with school and how their communities accepted them. Our findings indicated that four of the children were still attending school at community level. Their relatives are happy to live with the children if someone is willing to pay their school fees. Streets Ahead will continue supporting school fees for the children until their families can take over the responsibility.

HIFA 2005
"What about you" was the theme of Harare International Festival of Arts (HIFA) 2005 and once again Streets Ahead took part in this major Arts Festival event in Zimbabwe. HIFA took place from the 26th of April to the 1st of May. The streets youth were employed as parking personnel' during the 6 days of the festival.

As a consultant for HIFA, Streets Ahead was mainly in charge of coordinating security, in terms of looking after people's vehicles and making sure that they are not harassed. Streets Ahead has embarked on a strategy to try and change the way the society perceives street children. Street children have and are a very marginalized group. Employing streets youths during a HIFA is a way of showing the public that street children are just normal as any other person and can be reintegrated into the society.

During HIFA, there were no cases of vandalism, radios stolen, no people pushed to the pavement and their cell phones or handbags stolen except one car break in.

We also took the opportunity of marketing one of the works by the children, which is a book on street life. This book, "Nhoroondo yemumugwagwa" is a product of street children coordinated and edited by Brendan Buzzard.

Femi Kuti's visit
One of the major highlights of the Streets Ahead calendar was the visit by Femi Kuti to the Streets Ahead Drop in Centre on the 28th of April 2005. Femi Kuti was the main attraction of HIFA 2005 and is also a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF. It was an honor for us to have him at our place and he signed on one of our walls a message of hope. On this day, Femi watched drama performance by the children, had an interview with some of the children, played marimba with them before touring the centre. The UNICEF Country Representative and the British Ambassador accompanied Femi to Streets Ahead Drop In Center.

Child paticipation through the peer programme 
During the month of April children attended a two-day workshop to brainstorm and share ideas with staff on what street peers are, what they do and how the whole peer programme should function. The following is what was
 imparted into them by the Head of Outreach Department at Streets Ahead:   

  • Street Peers are leaders who provide support to children on the streets.  
  • They help each other when they are unwell 
  • They protect each other while they are on the streets
  • They report some of the problems street children face while they are on the streets. 
  • Street peers represent other children at meetings and workshops 
  • Street peers help identify invisible and the most vulnerable children
  • Street peers receive an incentive for their work 

Children on the streets are more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS due to a number of factors including the need for money to buy food whereby girls are sometimes exploited, poor supervision and guidance. CESVI, the Centre for positive living and PSI organized a six-day workshop on HIV/AIDS. Approximately 40 children attended the workshop. The children highlighted the areas that they wanted to know about HIV and AIDS. The children were provided with information on the following: 

  • pre and post counseling, 
  • positive living, 
  • nutrition and Voluntary Counseling and Testing among others. 

During the workshop, some of the children volunteered to go for voluntary counseling and testing at the New Start Center as a way of acknowledging that HIV and AIDS affects everyone. 

HIV/AIDS awareness day marked at Chitungwiza Town Center 30 April 2005
A marimba team comprising of 6 street boys was invited to participate during the HIV/AIDS Awareness campaign in Chitungwiza. They were the curtain raisers of the event and some established drama groups were also on the programme. The event involved information on nutritional guide and Positive living. Photographs on HIV and AIDS were exhibited.  The event was an opportunity for the communities to begin reflecting on the problems facing children on the streets.  It was also an opportunity for the children to show the communities that they have the capacity to behave like children of their age group if a chance was presented to them.

Police round ups in Harare
The round ups started on Saturday 21 May and are still continuing. A number of our children were caught up in the round ups. We have recorded a 60% reduction in the number of children who report to the Drop In Center on a regular basis. We usually have 35 -100 cases per day. We assumed that at least 60 street children were caught up in the round ups. According to our records 5-10% of them are girls. 

On Saturday 21 May about 30 boys had gone out to play their usual soccer game. Just before they started the match an army of policemen came and took them away to the police station that is based in Harare Central. The two outreach workers who had gone to provide technical support to the children playing soccer were helpless as they watched the 30 children being bundled away by policemen. The children looked frightened. They were told not to run away. One of the children who tried to run away was injured by a police button stick in the process. Streets Ahead provided him with medical support.  

The two-outreach workers followed the children to the police station but they were told to stay put. Some of the children reported that they were kept in cells at the central police station for an average of 2 - 5 days. One boy exclaimed "There were many of us in one cell, the cell was suffocating and two people collapsed". Some of the children who found their way back in town told us that they were given a portion of Sadza and some Kapenta fish as the only meal for the day while they were in the police cells. They slept on the floor in the same cells with street vendors and others. After 2 - 5 days behind police cells they transferred to Caledonia farm and Kadoma. Those at Caledonia farm had their hair shaved off by the police as an "identity". Some of the children sneaked out of Caledonia Farm and started walking back to Harare.

Streets Ahead is in the process of trying to have access to the children and try to provide for their needs. As an organization we do not support round ups. Round ups have been done several times and have not worked effectively. Some of the children will still come back to live on the streets. In 2003-2004 we reunited 130 children with their families. More than 95% of the children we reunited did not come back to live on the streets. We believe a home environment is better for any child development. Reunification becomes sustainable if the proper procedures are followed such as pre and post counseling, family counseling, better life alternatives, community advocacy to make the street children "our issue" and a sample of follow ups.

The following steps can make family reunification more sustainable:

  • Creating a friendly environment for children
  • Building trust with the children
  • Showing the street children love and concern so that they do not become defensive
  • Collecting their life history and family tree
  • Collecting information on why they left home and make attempts to be the arbitrator with the family
  • Conduct family investigations and see if family reunification is an option for the child
  • Provide the child and the family with counseling on a regular basis
  • Prepare an action plan for the child. Allow the child to participate so that they feel involved. 
  • Child participation gives the child a chance to be heard and to determine a solution to their predicament
  • Try to come up with mutual alternatives that are better than life on the streets
  • Make the child realize that life on the streets is dangerous
  • Implement the action plan which may involve family placement and education
  • Follow up and see how suspected difficult cases at reunification are coping
  • Work with or through local community structures
  • Provide community advocacy to help resolve the issue of street children
  • Avoid forcing the child back for reunification

Visit the Streets Ahead fact sheet

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