The Street is Their Home, Their School, and Their Graves


“This picture was posted by the police on their Facebook page, where they bragged about their “successful” work. They say: “We don’t go into favelas to die. We go in there to kill.””

The foundational understanding of basic education in developing countries is that  children are entitled to free basic education. The idea of Universal Primary Education, UPE, introduced as an agreement  by world leaders at the United Nations was supposed to offer free basic education to all children everywhere in the world. That basic education  is something they neither have nor know what it means for their future development, and probably never will till they die. This is a fact of life for street children. They live and die in the streets!

According  to UNESCO, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, “many destitute children are forced to eke out a living on the streets, scavenging, begging, hawking in the slums and polluted cities of the developing world “. That statement is partially true –  while they may not beg  in the streets of developed countries, and while the  western press may refer to them as ‘homeless” children instead of “street children”,  the real truth is that these children are not found only in developing countries. They are everywhere –  from the slums of Chicago  article-2117997-1242e2c6000005dc-226_964x637

to the streets of Kinshasa ;  from  Guatemala  to China ,  where more than 60 million children are left behind in rural areas while their parents try to eke out a living working  hundreds of miles away from home. Poverty is usually the main cause but not the only cause for the tragedy which afflicts  these children. In one  such case  four children living under unbearable conditions  the_room_in_bijie__3419474b

left a suicide note for their parents  in a village in south China  before ingesting   insecticide because they could no longer care for themselves. While government reaction in this case  was not reported,  Chinese authorities reacted to the death of five street kids who died trying to warm themselves by burning charcoal in a rubbish bin which sheltered them.

Family abuse  also causes many children to run away from home or be thrown out by parents and relatives. In Kinshasa there is terrible overcrowding in the ramshackle homes where they once lived, causing some parents to throw children into the streets.  7For the more than 150 million street children  the world is a perpetual conflict zone – they are destitute,  scavenge for food, steal, are sexually abused, hungry, tormented, despised, ill treated, cheated if hired, buffeted by wind, snow, sun and rain; and they have no protection from parents or governments, which every child deserves.  Many societies treat these children as outcasts and some  actually eliminate them. In Recife,  a tourist city in Brazil, which draws a million foreign tourists from Europe every year, an electronic sign keeps the daily toll of murders in the city. Most of these murders are committed by the police who in some cases are paid by death squads, business people and property owners to eliminate street children. The New York Times reported  that “extermination groups” cruise the  banking districts of Rio shooting street children at night;  and just last year the United Nations accused Brazilian police of cleaning the streets of Rio de Janeiro to prepare for the 2016 Olympics by killing street children.  While Brazilian authorities continue to defend the police and deny the undeniable, a  UN study  and Public  Security Reports had recorded an increase in homicides. UNICEF found that 28 young people were killed every day in Brazil.

Despite the fact that child rights are explicit in the human rights agenda, street children have remained excluded  from policy priorities and planning. Due to such exclusion  the inauguration of the International Day for Street Children, April 12, every year,  becomes an important organ  for giving street children a voice. Governments the world over have not taken the problems of street children as seriously as the plight of these children deserve. But for the untiring efforts of the Consortium For Street Children, CSC, no one seemed  to care about  street children’s plight, let alone address their basic needs for food and shelter. Education is still a very strange concept for these children. Hopefully the International Day for Street Children will bring more awareness and engender sympathy from world citizens for these children. It is therefore well worth it to delve into the history  of the International Day for Street Children.

Advocacy for street children at the United Nations  and before governments the world over,  has been  primarily carried out by the Consortium For Street Children, CSC,  a network of 37 UK non-governmental organizations. It was the CSC which inaugurated  the International Day for Street Children in 2011 and has been canvassing for the United Nations to adopt the day.  Supporting the work of the CSC and helping convince the United Nations to adopt International Day for Street Children will help tremendously in alleviating the sufferings of street children.


Brooke, J (1993). The New York Times July 24, 1993.  Retrieved from

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Challenging the Conflict Discourse: Not caused by conflict – 70 million uneducated children.



There are many barriers  which are unrelated to conflicts such as war, natural disaster, disturbances, and any other types of conflict which have prevented children from going to school in many countries. In   conflict zones throughout the world one can understand the reasons  schools are closed and why students stay out of school;  but in non conflict zones,  barriers  such  as poverty, gender discrimination, challenging geographies, untrained or no teachers at all,  and lack of educational facilities and supplies are impediments which have kept about 70 million children out of school. Some of these barriers are more pronounced in poor countries. Children living in north-east Africa, for instance,  are “the least likely to receive a good education” somli-children-in-a-camp-006      In some of these poor countries there are communities which have no schools at all, or the nearest schools are not within walking distances. Then there is the teacher problem as well – in some of such neighborhoods there are no teachers; or in some cases untrained or poorly trained teachers.  Lack of funding for providing classrooms 10barriers3    have spotlighted the major barriers to schooling, but it is not the only deterrent to schooling in non-conflict zones. Children with disabilities, gender discrimination, and household poverty are also barriers to education for many youngsters in many countries. 10barriers5   Some of the world’s 93 million children with disabilities have faced obstacles and have been denied schooling. Though advances have been made in educating girls,  more than 100 million young women are illiterate, denied opportunities for schooling simply because they are of the “wrong” gender in many societies. Some families are so poor that they cannot afford a single good meal per day. Unfortunately, in many of these poor countries the rich and  economically well-placed  care more about their children’s education  10barriers2    than they care about giving average education to poor kids

It is not only in the developing or underdeveloped world that young people are facing obstacles to basic education. Some very rich, very technologically advanced and developed countries have placed undue burdens to schooling upon their young and innocent citizens. In the United States for instance, 23 schools  were closed by Philadelphia’s state- run school commission in 2013 due to budget deficits. In the same year the Chicago Board of Education engaged in “the largest mass school closing in American history” by closing 49 elementary schools. The central arguments for closing schools in metropolitan U.S cities are usually based upon declining student enrollments and poor performance. While it may be true that students who are dispersed to other schools,  when theirs are closed,  do better academically, there is no denial that these students and their parents face inconveniences of relocation. One major drawback in reporting school closures is the assumption that all students so displaced will transfer 100 % to other schools. I have found no research to support this assumption, and no author has supplied any statistical data on the number of students who fail to transfer to other schools.

While barriers such as poverty, gender discrimination, and challenging geographies have kept children from poor developing countries out of school, children from developed countries like the United States have suffered only the inconveniences of relocating to other schools. Certainly children living in north-east Africa, for example, would gladly trade places with kids in Chicago or Philadelphia if they had the opportunity to walk many miles to school and from school. 70 million children out of school because of poverty, gender discrimination or inhospitable geographic conditions is a problem that can and should be addressed not only by the developing countries concerned, but by developed countries also. There is no better way to seek equitable distribution of world resources than in giving all children in the world equal opportunities to basic education.



Cohen, R. M. (2016). ALTERNET, April 22, 2016. Retrieved from

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Shepherd J. (2010) The Guardian, September 20, 2010. Retrieved from






No longer hot momentarily, it is a frozen conflict whose violence  erupts every now and then with small arms fire from both sides. 80960082_minskgradukrreut

In Eastern Ukraine the start of the school year holds dread instead of excitement. Toretsk,  the Soviet-era mining town in Ukraine’s Donbas region is in the war front, in the never-ending conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian backed and Russian inspired rebel forces. The children of School No. 9, or at least their school, are caught in the middle.  Toretsk is near rebel-controlled Horlivka. It is a drab town held by government forces; hence it is right in the middle of the conflict zone between government and rebel forces.

There was supposed to be a new cease-fire agreement according to the second Minsk  agreement, but the war front is anything but peaceful or quiet – mortars explode, gunfire boom, and people die, both soldiers and civilians on either side –  after Minsk 2 had been agreed upon and signed  between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel;  though the conflict is supposed to be a civil war between the rebels in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and the Ukrainian government. 80961918_minskroundafp

Last September (September 2016) the warring sides agreed on a “back-to-school” ceasefire to enable school-children return to school 107526296-large_transpvlberwd9egfpztclimqf1x_50byq9ah3wjav0ys_ms

But nobody knows if the truce will hold,  or if the children will take flight again or be mown down when the unending hostilities of war begin anew in the region. It has happened before – in Slovyansk , Eastern Ukraine; and “The children of School No. 12 endured violence and witnessed things no child should have to see: shellings, shootings, death”; according to Unicef. Human rights watch reported  in 2016 that many schools were attacked and destroyed in the war, ostensibly because the schools were used by both sides in the conflict for military purposes.2016-02-ukraine-eca-photo-17  Schools, like places of worship ought to be free from attack in military conflicts because schools are second homes to our most vulnerable citizens – children – but when adult anger or greed for power turns into conflict, children’s lives become less important to warring combatants.

Yes, a shaky ceasefire allowed school children to return to school in Eastern Ukraine, but for how long will the children be allowed to hope for a brighter future by studying, so that they can become useful citizens, and aid their country develop?  Will the combatants in Donbas respect the sanctity of life for the children; and stop rendering the children’s future doubtful, which is what happens in every conflict zone? These are questions which only the combatants can answer; and they must answer these questions and more;  at least for the sake of their children and ours; who need stable environments to attain basic education so necessary in the development of every country on earth.




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Human rights Watch. February 11, 2016. Retrieved from

The Telegraph. September 4, 2016. Retrieved from

Unicef connect. May 26, 2016. Retrieved from

A Bleak Future: No Homes, No Schools.

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Girls in  the Dalori camp for internally displaced people, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in Borno State.


The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has affected millions of parents and their school-age children, closed down thousands of schools, and made life uncomfortable and unbearable in the affected areas of north-eastern Nigeria. In the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, regarded as the epicenter of the crisis, educational development has been stunted.  More than 2000 schools have been closed in the area and across borders in the three countries – Chad, Cameroon, and Niger – which share borders with the three Nigerian states at the center of the crisis. The Brookings Institution estimates   that 3.3 million people have been internally displaced in north-east Nigeria as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency. This number of displaced persons due to the Boko Haram conflict accounts for 10% of Internally Displaced Persons worldwide.  Though the article that reports this fact has a political tinge, it asserts correctly that the insurgency is far from being defeated by the Nigerian government. The Chibok secondary school girls,   90784817_sniptoblured     abducted in April 2014, still remain in Boko Haram captivity   The United Nations believes that a “staggering” 1 million children have been forced out of school because of the crisis.

The article published by The Brookings Institution fails to mention if the Nigerian government has resettled school children in both primary and secondary schools in areas recaptured from Boko Haram. The article is more interested in the politics involved in failing to totally defeat Boko Haram and ignores the tragedies of loss of lives and human capital, and the stalling of development in the areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

By contrast, the Wall Street Journal has a different tinge on the terrorist organization. Writing on August 3, 2016, the Wall Street Journal noted that Boko Haram has changed both name and leadership, further complicating the Nigerian government’s ability to defeat the insurgent terrorists quickly. The terrorist organization now wants to be called Islamic State West African Province after it had pledged allegiance   in March 2015 to the Middle East terrorist organization known as ISIS.

Out-of-school children living on the margins of society, between danger and death, between hunger and uncertain future, and living without knowing if their lives will ever be normal again, typify the tragedy of conflict zones. Until the conflict in Nigeria ends, all talk about hope, schooling,  the future,  or the  development of educational  skills for these children remain but hot air signifying nothing in the minds of these children.


Jideofor Adibe. Brookings. Re-evaluating the Boko Haram Conflict. February 29, 2016 Retrieved from

UN News Center. Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency forces one million children from school – UNICEF.  Retrieved from

BBC News. Nigeria Chibok Girls: Boko Haram Video Shows Captives. August 14, 2016. Retrieved from

Drew Hinshaw & Gbenga Akingbule. The Wall Street Journal.  Islamic State Names New Leader of Boko Haram. August 3, 2016. Retrieved from




“The lost generation:Children in conflict zones”

In an article titled “The lost Generation: Children in Conflict Zones”, Ghafar & Masri lament that the “catastrophic by-product of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East is a lost generation of unschooled children”. Currently there are conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq in the Middle East. A 2015 report by UNICEF (United Nations Educational International Children’s Emergency Fund) estimates that 13 million children are affected by conflict; when conflict zones of Libya, the State of Palestine, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are added to Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.  That is a staggering number when it is remembered that the population in states like Portugal, Cuba, Greece, Tunisia and Bolivia are each less than 13 million (United Nations Population Division estimates for 2016).

In recent months it has been widely reported that frustrated youths with no gainful employment are the willing recruits for the Islamist terrorist organization, ISIS. The enormity of the problem of unschooled youths may shock the world if 13 million children can be imagined to become willing “martyrs” of suicide bombings now;  or armed terrorists when they become young adults.  Which country will be safe if 13 million frustrated youths decided to vent their anger against such a country?  A scenario like that ought to  give pause to countries fueling conflict,  by supplying arms to warring sides in the Middle East for  political reasons. 13 million unschooled children is an astronomical waste of human capital. School and family must be kept safe and healthy because modernization depends on these two institutions for progress and development. Conflict responsible for 13 million unschooled children amplifies the astronomical waste of human capital which war inflicts.  Suing for and bringing about peace now in these conflict zones will ensure giant development strides, safety, and security not only for the current victims of conflict, but for the countries involved and for the world at large.

Transitioning from a traditional society to a modern one depends on the education and health of the youth in any society; and these form the core for human capital. Societies change for the better because of development. Economic liberalization and Globalization would not be possible without skills development. Societies therefore depend on Human Capital for development. Unfortunately in many conflict zones the world over, children have lost the opportunity for schooling which is the foundation for a good education, and the beginning for developing and acquiring skills as preparation towards contributing positively to society.



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