street children

Let the most vulnerable have a true voice

Lisa Lee, Project Support Officer at Think Global talks about the important role teacher’s play in nurturing children and helping them to release their full potential, on International Day for Street Children.

A quote that is often misremembered as authored by Mahatma Ghandi, it was American missionary, writer and activist Pearl S. Buck who said,

Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that is cared for its helpless members.

Children are generally regarded to be the most vulnerable members of any society. They are young, impressionable, physically and mentally still developing a great deal, and without the protection of a nurturing caring environment, they are a hundred times more vulnerable if they end up on the streets.

On International Day for Street Children, it is natural to ask ourselves how such an abhorrent occurrence persists, even considered the norm in certain countries. In Sierra Leone, there are still 50,000 children living and working on the streets.

A disturbing indicator as to how street children are generally portrayed by the media is shown through charity appeals. Impressive multi-million pound fundraising targets created by substantial charity marketing campaigns such as Comic Relief, bring a sense of progress and achievement but the African beneficiaries are never offered the full floor. David Lammy MP wrote a scathing article on how Comic Relief has ‘tattooed images of poverty in Africa on to people’s minds’ which Liz Warner the CEO of Comic Relief has since responded to. The ‘white saviour stereotype’ will no longer speak for the people; people will be speaking for themselves.

Street Children

Laughter and smiles of street children in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: ©ILO/Yodhi Prasetyo

It does take a village to raise a child. Teachers are the gatekeepers to a child’s full potential, providing the skills, tools, and much needed encouragement to help children build a bright future for themselves. When a child’s rights and basic needs are ignored, it is to the detriment of a whole society and there is overwhelming research to show that the first five years of a child’s life are the most formative in their development.

The recent winner of the $1million Global Teacher of the World Award, Andria Zafirakou, emphasises the importance of listening to her students

What is amazing is that whatever issues they are having at home, whatever is missing from their life or causing them pain, our school is theirs.”

The child who is not equipped with the right tools to give back to their community when they become adults, is a child stripped of a voice. It is time to hear what they have to say.

We are now accepting nominations for Think Global’s Global Educator of the Year Award (GEYA) 2018! If you know of a teacher who is a changemaker, educators who have gone above and beyond in raising awareness and deepening understanding of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and encouraging young people to take action, nominate them today!

Read about GEYA 2017 finalists and winner here.

Blog by Lisa Lee, Project Support Officer at Think Global.

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