Life is never adorable for orphans and vulnerable youth who languish in the streets of Zambia’s major towns and cities. It is a journey punctuated by neglect, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, harsh weather, and sometimes prostitution to make ends meet.
DAPP Children’s Town is a home and center for education for former street children from the major cities in Zambia, it is situated in Chibombo district, Central Province. It was established in 1992 when a first team of children arrived at a simple camp site in Malambanyama village, on a land which was given by a local chief to DAPP. Since then, more than 1400 former street children and orphans and vulnerable children have benefited from the programme.
Children’s Town offers basic education – from pre-school to Grade 9 – to both former street children and children from the community. The programme follows the curriculum from the Ministry of Education integrated with specific activities developed by DAPP that integrate academic education to practical and hands-on experiences that ensure the children have the opportunity to learn and develop in a holistic and comprehensive way.
The project runs a 3-year rehabilitation and re-integration programme for former street youth. The youth learn to become productive and development-oriented through the entrepreneurial skills they are taught.
The youth are trained in carpentry and joinery, welding, shop keeping, construction and tailoring. They also learn agricultural production including gardening and animal husbandry. The youth are part of both production and marketing.
The youth are in charge of their training and take part in running the “Town” through their participation in planning and evaluation meetings, decision making, as well as taking turns in the kitchen to cook for themselves and through other collective activities in the project. Actually, much of the training is carried out when the youth practically take part in running the income generating activities in Children's Town.
Using the knowledge and skills gained in skills training, the children engage in production of various commodities. For instance, some students who are trained in tailoring begin producing school uniforms for the community school at the “Town” while those that are in the agriculture class cultivate food crops such as cabbages, rape, tomatoes as well as taking part in rearing animals like goats, chicken, pigs, and those that do carpentry produce furniture for the “Town” and for selling in the community.
During their second year in Children’s Town, the students are sent on attachments to various organisations where they practise the skills they will have acquired during the course of their training at the project.
DAPP is in the process of securing that successful skills training students sit for the National Trade Test examinations organised by the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Training Authority (TEVETA) so that the youth can have trade certificates up completion of their training.
Presently, there are 89 students in vocational training at Children’s Town.
The Practical Theoretical Basic Education (PTG): Children’s Town started to implement the Practical Theoretical Basic Education (PTG) program in January 2014. The 3-year program targets pupils from grades 7 to 9. The program builds on the government curriculum but utilizes unique teaching methods. Practical Theoretical Basic Education (PTG) is in its second year of implementation.
The PTG program is meant for children to know their life-values and develop into use full human being in society. The whole programme is organized as if it was a 3 year long expedition to conquer the highest mountain of the world known as Mount Everest; it is divided in ten hikes to reach ten plateaus linked to skills and knowledge achieved during the hike. The programme is organized in a way so pupils can see and feel themselves working their way up to the next level every time they learn one item then the other.
By June, PTG has a total enrolment of 183 pupils and is in the second phase of hikes in all the three grades, 7, 8 and 9. Under Grade 7 - 30 pupils were recruited, the old and new pupils had a grand opening ceremony with over 140 parents coming to receive the new pupils.
The children come to the project with many psychosocial problems arising from the traumatic life in the streets and due to abuse and neglect at home resulting in them escaping to the streets. Upon arrival at Children’s Town, they undergo intensive psychosocial counselling to assist them to gain back their life-values and self-esteem and to provide them with fundamental human qualities.
Most youths who come from the streets have little or no experience of parental care or love. Upon arrival at Children’s Town, the youths are thus integrated into a family group. The family consists of between 5 to 15 children and an educator. In the family, the youths find caring adults who assist them with personal problems, parental guidance and love. They find children who become their close friends as brothers and sisters.
They start their vocational training and social development with the base in the family structure. They learn to keep themselves healthy and have many discussions concerning HIV/ AIDS within their family. Conflicts arise and are solved – as in any family – and the children learn continuously. The youths that have been abused or for other reasons need special counselling are attended to promptly.
After undergoing training at Children’s Town for two years, the former street children are helped to settle and/or get employment through a 1-year re-integration programme so that they can begin a new life in the communities around the “Town” or in their community of origin. At this point, the youth tend to practise the skills they during skills training and the attachments to various organisations.
Community School for OVC
Besides being a home and a skills training center for former street youths, Children’s Town also runs a community school from pre-school to grade nine for orphans and vulnerable children who come from the surrounding villages.
This community school follows the normal government curriculum and teachers are seconded from the Ministry of Education. The children in grade 7 and 9 sit for examinations prepared by the Examination Council of Zambia. Children who qualify for High Schools are supported by bursaries from the government, Chibombo district and by DAPP and others well-wishers.
The project takes a unique approach in imparting knowledge to the learners in the sense that children themselves take a center-stage in the learning process. Through a participatory method, children use their brain, hands, imaginations, and literacy all their body parts are coordinated to help the children to grasp and apply what they are taught.
Even though children from the communities come for basic education at the school, others who are ardent enough find themselves combining that with skills training which is meant for former street youth. The children also take part in running the “Town” and in production. More than 2000 former street children, OVCs from major towns in Zambia and the surrounding communities have benefited from Children's Town programmes.