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Street children in Senegal: help in returning to a normal life

In the Tremplin centre in Dakar, vocational training is held for more than 100 boys aged 13-20 who had been living on the streets for years. An additional group of 25 boys are completing work placements in construction companies and large factories in Dakar.

In the Tremplin centre, led by the Senegalese organisation Village Pilote, the boys are not only provided with shelter, food and a sense of safety, but above all they have a chance to become independent in the labour market. Courses in electrics, plumbing, masonry and welding prepare them to look for employment in the burgeoning construction industry, while training in sustainable bio-agriculture gives them a competitive edge in farming techniques.

Seventeen-year-old Celestin, who chose carpentry as his specialty, tells how important the courses organised in the Tremplin centre are: “I started living on the streets of Thies and Dakar when I was six years old; there wasn’t a day when I was not hungry, I was often sick, and I met many unpleasant things that I don’t want to talk about... In the end, I managed to get into Village Pilote – I never want to go back on the street. Here I learned to read and write, and I have learned various skills and completed different courses. I chose carpentry because I like wood, I like to make furniture, doors and windows from it. I can see how older boys leave the centre and find jobs. I hope that I will succeed too.”

Vocational courses end with several months of work experience in the centre and professional courses at external employers, helping the boys to gradually become independent. Currently, a group of 25 boys is working at a large company Kiran in Dakar, in two construction companies and on the building of a highway. In Kiran, boys gaining work experience are looked after by former attendees of Village Pilot who have already found a permanent job there. Vincent, on work experience, talks about his work enthusiastically: “In the factory I work in the warehouse, I have superiors and colleagues. At Village Pilote, I learned what hierarchy and discipline are – the street does not teach you that. I am trying because I really want a job at Kiran. I received my first salary and I am paying my own way. I never thought that I could get this far.” The problem of street children is a serious and widespread social phenomenon in Senegal. Its scale is increasing due to the economic difficulties of the country and the consequent exodus of people from rural to urban areas.

According to UNICEF, there are nearly 100 million street children throughout the world. These are mainly boys aged 10-15 years. About 50 million of them live in African countries. The main tool for changing these children’s lives is education, including, in particular, vocational education.

A project by the Cultures of the World foundation entitled Vocational training and the reduction of unemployment among the street children of Dakar and its surroundings (No. 10/2016). The value of the subsidy from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is PLN 353,600.

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