An innovative programme for street children
Mkombozi means liberator or emancipator in Swahili and is the name adopted by an innovative project which reaches out to over 1000 vulnerable street children in the Kilamanjaro and Arusha regions of Tanzania.
In addition to working with children already living / working on the streets, Mkombozi works to end the abuse and neglect of children, to ensure that children’s rights are recognised, and to identify opportunities for intervention before a child migrates to the street.
One of the things they do is to research the root causes of the complex issues surrounding child vulnerability in Tanzania. This inevitably means research about the failure of the education system and why children drop out or play truant from education and end up on the streets. One of their documents ‘Handbook: Methodology for delivering and practicing non-formal education in Tanzania’ was originally designed for Mkombozi educators who were working with street children but has now been made available for a wider audience and particularly for cross-application in a school-based context in Tanzania. The authors argue that the Mkombozi NFE principles and practice would be applicable in a schools based context and would be of value to the Tanzanian education system. You can download a PDF of the Handbook: Methodology for delivering and practicing non-formal education in Tanzania.
Family poverty is another areas of research for Mkombozi because many children end up on the streets because they have migrated to towns to find money or work.Â Mkombozi have distributed 15000 copies of an information guide for families which points to services available in the 4 communities which can be used at little or no cost to try and stem this tide of migration. Their work to support families is wide ranging and includes:
- Recruiting and training community mentors as conflict mediators and positive role models for children in the community.
- Running the first Big Brother Big Sister mentoring project in East Africa.
- Establishing Peer Support Groups in four schools and at Mkomboziâ€™s residential centre. In these groups, children are trained to identify and assist other children in distress, and teachers act as mentors.
- Mkombozi youth workers mediate family conflict so that dislocated / homeless children can return home.
In conclusion, here are some of the reasons why children run to the streets in Tanzania according to Mkombozi:
Family breakdown through divorce, separation, death, single parenting and birth out of wedlock mean that many families with children lack adequate support. These families are at a higher risk of violating children’s rights because aggression is accepted within the familial environment. Combined with a prevailing community attitude of non-intervention and a lack of skills to mediate family conflicts, many children run away from home for a life on the streets.
Visit the Mkombozi website to find out more about their work.
- Urban Life and Street Children’s Health: Children’s Accounts of Urban Hardships and Violence in Tanzania (African Studies)
- Arusha Children Center: Putting tourists to meaningful action(everydayambassador.org)
- Mkombozi Group : Tanzania (kiva.org)