“Don’t Call Me a Street Child” - The first Comprehensive Assessment of Street Children carried out in Georgia
TBILISI, Georgia, April 15, 2009, - The first comprehensive assessment of street children in Georgia called “Don’t Call Me a Street Child” revealed that 86% of street children are not enrolled in school. The major findings of the study carried out by the Save the Children with the support from UNICEF and USAID, have been released today.
The study also revealed that 40% of out-of-school street children are school drop-outs and 60% never entered a classroom. One-half of street children cannot read and write.
According to the study, the street children in Georgia are a manifestation of numerous socio-economic problems the vulnerable children and their families face in the country, rather than a stand-alone phenomenon.
“Without the close cooperation and support from a multitude of experts, groups and organizations, this study would not have been accomplished”, said the Save the Children’s Rebuilding Lives Project Director Katarzyna Wargan. “The fact that hundreds of poor and socially excluded children are on the streets in Georgia means a qualified social work action is urgently needed. The stigma associated with the name street children and a trend to place such children into rigid categories is so strong that it becomes easy to forget the most essential reality: that a “street child” is simply a child, with individually unique talents, personal abilities, and rights. Families and communities need to be regarded as part of the solutions rather than as part of the problem - policies and programs should be oriented at supporting families and social networks in protecting the rights of the children."
The study found that 65% of street children in urban Georgia are boys. Children 5 to 14 years of age are the largest age group (65%), followed by teenagers (20%) and infants/toddlers (15%).
In street children’s perception, the biggest family problems are: economic difficulties (poverty, unemployment, homelessness and debts), alcoholism/family violence, parental death and divorce/remarriage of parents.
90% of street children could be classified as “child labourers” – the children of school age who have to work to earn an income for themselves or for their families. The most prominent activity is begging (55% of children) and working (27%). A need to earn money is mainly motivated by economic hardship in the family. 40% of children use the money earned for their family needs. 23% of children say that when they earned money, it was taken away from them. Many families in extreme poverty prefer for their children to make money than to spend time in school or childcare service.
“UNICEF supports the government strategy towards street children, which is to re-integrate them into their families and communities”, said Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Georgia. “We closely work with our partners to include street children into the ongoing child welfare reform process, including the development of family-based care alternatives, transformation of residential institutions and reintegration of children into the family environment. It is also essential to ensure these children attend class and are able to achieve their potential through normal educational development”, he added.
About the study
The Urban Street Children Study in Georgia, with joint support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has been carried out by Save the Children and ACT-Research in collaboration with a multitude of state, non-governmental and academic actors.
The study focused on children 0 to 18 years of age who were observed in the street in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi and Batumi. There was an average of 1,049 street children in the four target urban locations (November 2007), with a maximum estimate of about 1,600 children, the largest numbers being observed in Tbilisi.