29 Apr

Bauleni Street Kids Project

Posted By Politybooks

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In chapter 9, the case study focuses upon a national organization in Zambia, the Open Community Schools (ZOCs: see http://www.zocs.org.zm/ for more information) which offers opportunities for orphaned and vulnerable young children. On a recent teaching trip to Lusaka, Zambia in March 2013 I was able to visit the Bauleni Street Kids Project, which was formerly part of the ZOCs programme. In the case study on page 210, this project is linked to the building of social capital and involvement with the local community. I saw all of this first-hand during my visit, with evidence of income generating activities attached to the bakery, piggery and gardens. There is also the opportunity for local people to access training at the school to develop their own skills, and the provision on offer is broader than just academic training, with cooking, sewing and enterprise classes being delivered. The school is important within the local community and so builds social capital through training and employment of local people, free service provision such as counselling and strengthening of connections within the community through a variety of projects (see chapter 9).

I was fortunate enough to have a full tour of the school, and to see the range of provision and support that was on offer to the children who attend the classes. There are the usual academic subjects such as numeracy and literacy but classes also include sewing and knitting for future individual skill sustainability, which are particularly beneficial for the young people who find academic subjects beyond their grasp. The school is more than just education, it is home for many young people, providing food and spiritual support for many and therefore it caters for health in a holistic way (see chapter 1). The school links to broader policy in its aims, such as the expansion of education detailed in the global Millennium Development Goal, specifically goal 2, to achieve universal primary education for all (see chapter 12 and http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/). The school has a positive ethos in many ways but it is not without problems. The school experiences a chronic shortage of teachers and those who teach are often not experienced. Once they gain their experience they move on to better paid opportunities. This shortage of staff has meant that some entrepreneurial activities and training, such as word-working, are no longer available and the existing staff were saddened by the loss of provision and the struggles that they face with the daily running of the school. Financially there are many challenges. The school depends predominantly on donor funding, with the income-generating activities providing a small amount to contribute to the pot. Despite these challenges, the staff remain involved in advocacy work around the needs of children and the right of these children to receive education.

Furthermore, without the school there would be no options for many of the children who live and learn there. I was struck by the very different cultural context in which disability is understood during my visit, it is highly stigmatised and socially constructed in a very negative manner (see chapter 4). I asked what would happen to the children if the school did not exist and was told that they would simply become street kids, or that they are street children before attending as they are abandoned by parents who are unable to cope with their disabilities and associated stigma. Without this provision, there are no opportunities for many young children attending the school. The school is an important determinant of health in this context.

Louise Warwick-Booth, 24.4.2013