Street Children Given New Hope Thanks to Plan-Supported Drop-in Center
A program in Pakistan supported by Plan International is helping to get children off the streets and into school.
Working with local organizations to address the issue of working street children, Plan Pakistan began the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Street Working Children project with the aim to not only rehabilitate children, but also to introduce them to a formal education. A drop-in center was set up for children who pick up litter for a living. The center provides services such as non-formal education, health care, psychosocial support, nutritious meals, and recreational facilities.
The program addresses a pressing issue in Pakistan.
In the city of Chakwal, there has been a sharp increase in children, both boys and girls, scavenging for scrap to sell to local junk yard owners. Street and working children are often exposed to dreadful conditions and are vulnerable to all different forms of abuse. They can also fall prey to various diseases.
Some children drop out of school at an early age and many never see the inside of a classroom. Perils faced include hunger, thirst, dangerous and poorly paying jobs, prostitution, sexual abuse, disease, exclusion, police harassment, imprisonment, drug addiction, and illiteracy.
For a boy in Chakwal, the drop-in center is making all the difference.
9-year-old Kamran lives on the outskirts of the city where he and his family used to beg on the streets.
One day, staff from the drop-in center visited Kamran and talked to his parents about his right to health and education. This was followed by other meetings until his parents agreed to send him to the drop-in center where other children from the community were enrolled.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “We would have lunch together with the staff and other children and we learned how to read and write, and I also learned good manners there. Now I can greet people properly, request the teacher for help, and share with other children.”
Kamran proved to be a quick learner and he soon decided that he wanted to go to a regular school.
“I convinced my parents that this would be good for us as a family,” he said.
With the help of the center staff, Kamran and seven others were admitted to a government primary school. Kamran excelled in his studies and when the results of the annual examination were announced, he had earned the highest grades in the class.
“The headmistress of the school gave me a cash prize,” he said. “And, upon hearing of my success, many parents from our neighborhood who were not in favor of education enrolled their children in my school.”
A total of 13 neighborhood children, among them Kamran’s brother and cousins were enrolled in school.
For Kamran, primary school is not the end of the road. His journey has just begun.
“Now my parents take a greater interest in my education,” he said. “I dream of being a pilot in the Pakistan Air Force one day.”