Tackling Streetism in Bolgatanga -School of Night Rabbits to the rescue
Streetism is a term used to describe children who are forced to spend most of their time outside their homes, engaging in menial income-generating activities in order to survive.
Often, such children who seek refuge and survive outside the home come from rural or the poor areas of towns and cities.
Bolgatanga, the regional capital of the Upper East Region, and a major transit point to some West African countries, has been grappling with streetism for some time now.
The town’s strategic position avails it to the type of menial jobs that attract street children. They carry loads for lorry drivers and passengers, while others work in the ‘chop bars’ and eat whatever is available to them.
School of Night Rabbits
In 2003, a volunteer from the United Kingdom, Clare Armstrong, in collaboration with a manager of a foster home, Mama Laadi foster Home, started a programme initially known as ‘School of Hard Knocks,’ which provided an avenue for street children to gather regularly to receive health support and basic tutoring from the two women.
In 2005, Afrikids Ghana, an NGO, partnered ‘School of Hard Knocks’ and assumed responsibility for the project. Under the new name, School of Night Rabbits, Afrikids continued to take children off the streets and put them in the classroom where they were taught some basic numeracy and literacy skills. The NGO also took responsibility for the children’s upkeep.
The syllabus run by the School of Night Rabbits is a mix of Ghana Education Service lessons and a wider set of social and health lessons and recreation. During classes, the children are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in some practical lessons such as drumming and dancing, storytelling, poetry recitals, doormat weaving etc. They are also taught basic health and hygiene and how to stay safe even on the streets.
Teachers of the ‘School of Night Rabbits’ spend a lot of time on the streets where they monitor the situation of the children and find out their backgrounds. The project, thus, helps to guard even children on the streets from getting into worse situations. When possible, the children are mainstreamed into the Afrikids Ghana main sponsored projects for them to receive more comprehensive support or unit them with their families. The teachers are volunteers who receive monthly allowances from Afrikids Ghana. The leader of the volunteers is Ms Saratu Abubakari.
Giving an overview of the programme at a ceremony in Bolgatanga, where free school uniforms and learning materials were presented to beneficiaries, Ms Abubakari said for the three years that she had been engaged on the project, a number of children had been withdrawn from the streets and encouraged to either go back home or to school.
She said from October 2012 to date, the ‘School of Night Rabbits’ had registered about 70 children, though 43 of them were regular at evening tutorials, and added that of the 43 street children rescued, 24 had been placed in schools. Ms Abubakari was not happy about the irregular manner in which the 24 pupils attended classes because they had to hustle on the streets after school each day in order to survive.
She said the remaining 19 children had all expressed interest in going to school and indicated that a search was being made for schools to absorb them.
The head of the Bolgatanga Area Programme of Afrikids Ghana, Mr Cletus Anaaya, said support provided the children under the project included monthly stipend, health insurance, provision of female goats for families of the children to rear, soap and other toiletries, educational talks to motivate them to want to go back to school, as well as counselling services.
He said after a period of nine months, during which time the children attended night classes, some of them agreed to go back to school, while others went back to their families.
Mr Anaaya said a few neither went back to school nor home because they had nobody to take care of them. ‘The organisation unfortunately is also unable to mainstream them into any of its existing projects for direct support.
The Director of Programmes at Afrikids Ghana, Mr David Pwalua, said the intervention had given them the opportunity to reach out to children who, through no fault of theirs, were not regular in school or had not been to school at all.
He called on all stakeholders, including lorry park overseers, parents and civil society organisations, as well as the government to support Afrikids Ghana to give education to children who are not in the formal school system.
A beneficiary, Ms Ibrahim Fidaus, who is now in junior high school, thanked Afrikids for picking her from the streets and enrolling her in school. Ms Ibrahim revealed that she would remain in school and continue till she reached the highest level.
By Benjamin Xornam Glover/Daily Graphic/Ghana
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