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 A Sanctuary for Zambia’s Street Children

All children deserve quality education. It is a basic human right, as well as  the most fundamental prerequisite of progress and development. Most people would agree.

But what about juvenile delinquents, young drug addicts and street children? How are their rights secured in a country like Zambia?

Children’s Town is a project by DAPP Zambia that has the goal of ensuring that the country’s children – including those who have had a rough start in their lives – have a chance to live up to their potential.  DAPP Zambia believes that also street children should have access to a safe home and essential vocational and academic courses.

“Streetism” – a way of life for thousands of children

In Zambia, almost half a million children and youth do not attend school at all, according to UNESCO. It is obvious that better education opportunities for the youth of Zambia are needed. 

Like in all countries, some children and youth will need specialised school opportunities because they have special needs. 
Another challenge for Zambia is “streetism” – “the living of homeless or unmonitored children on the street, especially when related to drugs, disease, crime, or delinquency” . The term is widely used in English speaking African countries. An estimated half million of children live on the streets in Zambia.

The reasons for children ending up on the streets of the big cities in Zambia range from neglect by parents or guardians due to poverty or sickness, death of parents and grandparents to broken homes because of addictions. Remember: the AIDS pandemic ravaged an entire generation in Zambia and left more than a million orphans behind. This is a fact that will never go away.

Efforts are being made to provide different types of schools and teaching and learning environment that will motivate children to learn, dream, and achieve personal and professional growth. However, this sounds easier than it is. Children and youth who have had a rough start in life need much more than an education. They need a home.

Getting children off the streets

For decades various strategies, including force, have been affected to rid the streets of children, but without much success. The Zambian government and various partners have been trying to get these children off the streets, but the problem hasn’t gone away.

In 2018, the Zambian Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) launched the new Service Efficiency and Effectiveness for Vulnerable Children and Adolescents Initiative (SEEVCA) programme in 15 districts in Zambia, with the technical support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and made possible by $10 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

This overarching strategy to combat streetism is a welcome development. Many NGOs, church groups and other private initiatives have worked to improve the situation for decades, but to care for more than a million orphans is a huge task.

Rehabilitation starts with having a home

DAPP Zambia responded to the need for safety and education of street children already in 1990, where the “Children’s Town” in Malambayama was established.

From the onset, DAPP Malawi have understood that the success of any programme to rehabilitate street children depends on empowering these children with basic life skills and vocational training that will secure their livelihoods as they grow older. First of all, they need to have their basic needs covered – a safe place to sleep, food, healthy social relations – basically a home.

For starters, the children need to be counselled so that they overcome circumstances that forced them to go to the streets. Many of them are angry at society for being ignored and left to fend for themselves on the streets. Some of them have suffered the effects of substance abuse or addiction to alcohol.

Therefore, integration into a welcoming home and counselling have to be implemented at the very beginning of the rehabilitation journey of any street child. Then comes training of social skills, basic literacy and numeracy skills, acquiring good habits, establishing a healthy lifestyle, learning how to resolve conflicts and of course attending lessons, passing exams and receiving vocational training.

A lifelong home & education for life

The Children’s Town aspires to be a lifelong home and social base for its residents, as well as a positive learning environment. Improved self-esteem, self-value, decision making, and the ability to face and overcome challenges are perhaps the most important qualities that the youngsters develop. During the years many children’s lives have been turned around and great results have been achieved.

There are many stories of students and teachers. Such is the case with Metusela Mpofu – the project helped him escape the dangers and temptations of the street life and find a passion and stable income in agriculture. Now he is turning into a role model for other students and his responsibility, dedication, and self-worth allow him to take care of himself and live a productive, healthy life.

Creating families

There is a network of headmen and families in the surrounding villages who also support the activities in the Children’s town in various ways. The project aims to reunite rehabilitated children with their families, or if that is not possible, to assist them to be adopted into new families. Thus, some families in the communities around the Children’s Town adopt and welcome children into their homes.

How international volunteers can support

In a time where there is an increased awareness about the disturbing practices of the “orphanage tourism” industry, where children are exploited to generate income from alternating international volunteers, the Children’s Town serves as a good example of how orphans and other vulnerable children should be treated. So, first and foremost international volunteers can learn valuable lessons about how a responsible organisation cares for and educates street children and orphans. 

Most of the direct work with the children and youth at the Children’s town like being a house parent, teacher, counsellor or vocational trainer is taken care of by trained staff. The role of international volunteers are therefore secondary and “on top” of the services provided in the Children’s Town. Depending on what is needed volunteers can assist in various ways, like producing posters to be used by the teachers in lessons, arranging sports activities or doing general maintenance or gardening.

Recognised social entrepreneurs

The Children’s Town and its good results grabbed the attention of Robert Redford who made a documentary series called “New Heroes” which chronicled the work of social entrepreneurs. The series was broadcast on PBS – the Public Broadcasting Service in 2005, but is still relevant. The basic principles of the work done are the same, as well as the pedagogical principles applied.

Moses Zulu currently works in Botswana where he is director for the NGO Humana People to People Botswana.

More about the education opportunities

The Children’s Town project is divided into several sections, namely:

Pre-school education: Offering young children a programme that motivates them to use their hands, minds, imagination, and ideas.

Primary Education: The programme is following the Government policy for teaching pupils from grades 1 to 4.  Apart from the normal lessons kids are also involved in drama, sports, choir, cultural dances, and other activities to keep their curiosity and imagination as big as possible.

Basic Secondary Education: The programme is designed to help students prepare and pass the grade 9 exam following the government curriculum.

Practical Theoretical Basic Education: Focused on training and education of youth in grades 7-9. It also includes a strong emphasis on vocational training in food production.

Continuing Professional Development: The CPD programme’s goal is to maintain the development and progress of the teaching staff with modern methodologies, subject areas, and materials.

One step at a time

Making education available and stimulating participation is just the start. To establish a working system there are many factors that need attention. Well-trained professional staff, the right setting in classrooms, proper curriculum and after-school activities, and last but not least the motivation for students to reach the last stage of their education.

But progress happens step by step. It is paramount that each stage is given enough attention. The development of the Children’s Town project is the right start and an integral part of Zambian youth’s future.

DAPP Zambia Children's Town

The teachers here are my parents – they teach me well in class but they also encourage, counsel,
and  correct me when I am not doing the right thing.
This school makes me feel at home.

~ Vincent, Student at Children’s Town

Facts about Education in Zambia

495 692 Zambian youth aged between 8 and 24 were not enrolled in any type of school in 2017.

Only 55% successfully completed primary school

36% of them did not continue forth with secondary education.

Source: UNESCO

Some of the pupils here were on drugs or were alcoholics due to living on the streets for such a long time.
The Teacher Training College in Mkushi has taught me how to handle complicated situations and
I go to the class determined to drive change in those students
– they deserve a bright future like everyone else.

~ Kaunga Kawenago Teacher in the PTE Programme

Facts about Children's Town

Children’s Town is located in the Chibombo district, Central Zambia.

The concept of the Children’s Town Project is to assist in the rehabilitation of former street children and those in vulnerable conditions.

DAPP Zambia’s goals are to provide the necessary skills and knowledge so those children can grow to live healthy and productive lives.

The project started in 1992 on a simple campsite in Malambanyama village.

Over 2500 children have benefited from it.

Rehabilitation of Street Children

Metusela Mpofu found a career in agriculture

A person without education is like
a tree without roots.

~ Marcus Garvey

Read Franzi’s report; working with Children’s Town in Zambia

Children's Town Street Children Work
DAPP Zambia - Children's Town

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DAPP Zambia - Children's Town

All children deserve quality education. It is a basic human right, as well as  the most fundamental prerequisite of progress and development. Most people would agree.

But what about juvenile delinquents, young drug addicts and street children? How are their rights secured in a country like Zambia?

Children’s Town is a project by DAPP Zambia that has the goal of ensuring that the country’s children – including those who have had a rough start in their lives – have a chance to live up to their potential.  DAPP Zambia believes that also street children should have access to a safe home and essential vocational and academic courses.

The teachers here are my parents – they teach me well in class but they also encourage, counsel, and correct me when I am not doing the right thing. The school makes me feel at home
~ Vincent, Student at Children’s Town

“Streetism” – a way of life for thousands of children

In Zambia, almost half a million children and youth do not attend school at all, according to UNESCO. It is obvious that better education opportunities for the youth of Zambia are needed. 

Like in all countries, some children and youth will need specialised school opportunities because they have special needs. 
Another challenge for Zambia is “streetism” – “the living of homeless or unmonitored children on the street, especially when related to drugs, disease, crime, or delinquency” . The term is widely used in English speaking African countries. An estimated half million of children live on the streets in Zambia.

The reasons for children ending up on the streets of the big cities in Zambia range from neglect by parents or guardians due to poverty or sickness, death of parents and grandparents to broken homes because of addictions. Remember: the AIDS pandemic ravaged an entire generation in Zambia and left more than a million orphans behind. This is a fact that will never go away.

Efforts are being made to provide different types of schools and teaching and learning environment that will motivate children to learn, dream, and achieve personal and professional growth. However, this sounds easier than it is. Children and youth who have had a rough start in life need much more than an education. They need a home.

Facts about Education in Zambia

495 692 Zambian youth aged between 8 and 24 were not enrolled in any type of school in 2017.

Only 55% successfully completed primary school

36% of them did not continue forth with secondary education.

Source: UNESCO

Getting children off the streets

For decades various strategies, including force, have been affected to rid the streets of children, but without much success. The Zambian government and various partners have been trying to get these children off the streets, but the problem hasn’t gone away.

In 2018, the Zambian Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) launched the new Service Efficiency and Effectiveness for Vulnerable Children and Adolescents Initiative (SEEVCA) programme in 15 districts in Zambia, with the technical support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and made possible by $10 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

This overarching strategy to combat streetism is a welcome development. Many NGOs, church groups and other private initiatives have worked to improve the situation for decades, but to care for more than a million orphans is a huge task.

Some of the pupils here were on drugs or were alcoholics due to living on the streets for so long. The College in Mkushi has thought me how to handle complicated situations and I go to the class determined to drive change in those students – they deserve a bright future like everyone else.

~ Kaunga Kawenago Teacher in the PTE Programme

Rehabilitation starts with having a home

DAPP Zambia responded to the need for safety and education of street children already in 1990, where the “Children’s Town” in Malambayama was established.

From the onset, DAPP Malawi have understood that the success of any programme to rehabilitate street children depends on empowering these children with basic life skills and vocational training that will secure their livelihoods as they grow older. First of all, they need to have their basic needs covered – a safe place to sleep, food, healthy social relations – basically a home.

For starters, the children need to be counselled so that they overcome circumstances that forced them to go to the streets. Many of them are angry at society for being ignored and left to fend for themselves on the streets. Some of them have suffered the effects of substance abuse or addiction to alcohol.

Therefore, integration into a welcoming home and counselling have to be implemented at the very beginning of the rehabilitation journey of any street child. Then comes training of social skills, basic literacy and numeracy skills, acquiring good habits, establishing a healthy lifestyle, learning how to resolve conflicts and of course attending lessons, passing exams and receiving vocational training.

Facts about Children's Town

Children’s Town is located in the Chibombo district, Central Zambia.

The concept of the Children’s Town Project is to assist in the rehabilitation of former street children and those in vulnerable conditions.

DAPP Zambia’s goals are to provide the necessary skills and knowledge so those children can grow to live healthy and productive lives.

The project started in 1992 on a simple campsite in Malambanyama village.

Over 2500 children have benefited from it.

A lifelong home & education for life

The Children’s Town aspires to be a lifelong home and social base for its residents, as well as a positive learning environment. Improved self-esteem, self-value, decision making, and the ability to face and overcome challenges are perhaps the most important qualities that the youngsters develop. During the years many children’s lives have been turned around and great results have been achieved.

There are many stories of students and teachers. Such is the case with Metusela Mpofu – the project helped him escape the dangers and temptations of the street life and find a passion and stable income in agriculture. Now he is turning into a role model for other students and his responsibility, dedication, and self-worth allow him to take care of himself and live a productive, healthy life.

Rehabilitation of Street Children Zambia

Metusela Mpofu found a career in agriculture

Creating families

There is a network of headmen and families in the surrounding villages who also support the activities in the Children’s town in various ways. The project aims to reunite rehabilitated children with their families, or if that is not possible, to assist them to be adopted into new families. Thus, some families in the communities around the Children’s Town adopt and welcome children into their homes.

A person without education is a tree without roots.

~ Marcus Garvey

How international volunteers can support

In a time where there is an increased awareness about the disturbing practices of the “orphanage tourism” industry, where children are exploited to generate income from alternating international volunteers, the Children’s Town serves as a good example of how orphans and other vulnerable children should be treated. So, first and foremost international volunteers can learn valuable lessons about how a responsible organisation cares for and educates street children and orphans. 

Most of the direct work with the children and youth at the Children’s town like being a house parent, teacher, counsellor or vocational trainer is taken care of by trained staff. The role of international volunteers are therefore secondary and “on top” of the services provided in the Children’s Town. Depending on what is needed volunteers can assist in various ways, like producing posters to be used by the teachers in lessons, arranging sports activities or doing general maintenance or gardening.

Read Franzi’s report; working with Children’s Town in Zambia

Children's Town Volunteers

Recognised social entrepreneurs

The Children’s Town and its good results grabbed the attention of Robert Redford who made a documentary series called “New Heroes” which chronicled the work of social entrepreneurs. The series was broadcast on PBS – the Public Broadcasting Service in 2005, but is still relevant. The basic principles of the work done are the same, as well as the pedagogical principles applied.

Moses Zulu currently works in Botswana where he is director for the NGO Humana People to People Botswana.

More about the education opportunities

The Children’s Town project is divided into several sections, namely:

Pre-school education: Offering young children a programme that motivates them to use their hands, minds, imagination, and ideas.

Primary Education: The programme is following the Government policy for teaching pupils from grades 1 to 4.  Apart from the normal lessons kids are also involved in drama, sports, choir, cultural dances, and other activities to keep their curiosity and imagination as big as possible.

Basic Secondary Education: The programme is designed to help students prepare and pass the grade 9 exam following the government curriculum.

Practical Theoretical Basic Education: Focused on training and education of youth in grades 7-9. It also includes a strong emphasis on vocational training in food production.

Continuing Professional Development: The CPD programme’s goal is to maintain the development and progress of the teaching staff with modern methodologies, subject areas, and materials.

One step at a time

Making education available and stimulating participation is just the start. To establish a working system there are many factors that need attention. Well-trained professional staff, the right setting in classrooms, proper curriculum and after-school activities, and last but not least the motivation for students to reach the last stage of their education.

But progress happens step by step. It is paramount that each stage is given enough attention. The development of the Children’s Town project is the right start and an integral part of Zambian youth’s future.