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At a glance: Guinea

Acrobatics help to keep children off the streets in Guinea

© UNICEF video
At Tinafan Centre, where children learn acrobatics, they are offered an alternative to life on the streets in Guinea.

CONAKRY, Guinea, 15 April 2010 - Bangali just turned 19. He lives in a very poor neighborhood of Conakry, next to a garbage dump. But, recently, Bangali’s life took an exciting new turn when he began learning acrobatics at Tinafan Centre.

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The centre is an entry point to a better life for many children in Conakry. It is a safe haven that offers counselling, literacy lessons, vocational artist training and nutritious meals.

“They’re happy that they can come here every day,” says Ibrahima Bamba, the centre’s director. “I have seen some of them who became stars. Many start rebuilding their lives, and it makes me very happy.”

Adds says Hadja Kade Sek, the acrobatics teacher: “They’re really eager to learn, and that’s very important. They didn’t have the opportunity to go to a regular school. We want them to learn a bit of what the other children are learning, on top of their skills as acrobats.”

School of life

Children at the centre also receive professional training in practical skills such as sewing, metal and leather making.

© UNICEF video
Children also receive a professional training such as sewing, metal work and leather making at Tinafan Centre, in Conakry.

“Not all of them will become stars, so we want them to have a job in their hands for their future,” says Fofana Malik, the head art teacher.

The centre’s acrobat troupe has been a source of pride for this impoverished nation, where some 70 per cent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. The acrobats are currently on a tour with performances in Algeria, Cambodia and the United States. Some of the centre’s children have gone on to join the famous Cirque du Soleil.

Without such programmes, Guinea’s children often find themselves lacking protection or support, and are exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation, including prostitution.

Tools for the future

“With the Tinafan programme, we aim to lift children out of poverty and provide them with adequate tools for their future,” says UNICEF Guinea Chief of Child Protection Kadiatou Pate Toure.

“The idea behind this project,” says UNICEF Representative in Guinea Julien Harneis, “is to build on what’s strong in the Guinean culture itself. We wanted to find something that had an international reputation and help children thrive out of their village, their city and their country, and show something spectacular to the world.”

The goal of the programme is to build partnerships with world-renowned circuses and give more of the street children of Guinea a chance to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams.




UNICEF's Edward Bally reports from Guinea on a UNICEF supported programme to  teach children acrobatics.
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