Every year on 12th April, a day is dedicated to the world’s street children, a growing phenomenon in every continent. Apprentis d’Auteuil and its international partners are mobilising. Interview with Jean Dzéné, head of the Apprentis d’Auteuil street children programme.
Why is Apprentis d’Auteuil interested in the issue of street children ?
Jean Dzéné : The Foundation has been working with its partners abroad on the issue of street children for many years. This year, they are particularly marking April 12th with events testimonials for children, social workers and association officials. Apprentis d'Auteuil could not be indifferent to this issue which takes it back to its origins. In 1866, when Abbé Roussel founded L'Oeuvre de la Première communion (Society of the First Communion), the beginnings of the Foundation, it provided shelter for boys living in the street.
What does Apprentis d’Auteuil do in this field ?
Apprentis d’Auteuil is a direct operator in France, but has chosen to act in partnership with local organisations abroad, as part of a framework for sustainable relationships and experience- and expertise sharing. We provide technical, methodological, educational and teaching support on a number of projects. Supporting children living in the streets is one of our five major fields of work internationally. The partnership approach enables us to think together to improve our practices and our approach to the phenomenon of street children. It opens up new horizons.
Who are our partners ?
In th Philippines, our partners include Caméléon, Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation, ACAY. In Madagascar, there's a collective (HARDI, ENDA Océan Indien, Graines de Bitume, Centre NRJ). In Mali, Action Enfants de Tous Ségou. In Sénégal, Village Pilote. In Democratic Republic of Congo, there's a collective including REEJER. In Peru, Qosqo Maqui, etc.
What do we bring to the table ? First of all, our solidarity. Also our support, for example, finding funds to finance projects to train social workers and educators. We also carry out advocacy, challenging sovereign States on the implementation of laws and conventions, and educate people and communities on this issue. The stakes are high:greater awareness and a change of attitude with regard to these children is imperative. The public should do some soul-searching: why are these children on the street ? Do they live there ? Why aren't they in school ?
What do we know about these children ?
This phenomenon cannot be explained by poverty alone. There are very poor families whose children are not necessarily on the street. And there are well-off families whose children do live the street. It is more linked to the abuse and violence they suffer. They seek safety away from their homes. It’s worth knowing that a single night spent outside has an immediate negative affect on a child. This phenomenon, which has been around for a long time, has a tendency to grow in parallel with the development of urban centres. It also happens in the West and in Europe.
What do we do about it ?
These issues touch on deeply held, sensitive realities. Like the ‘talibé’ children (in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso) handed over to teachers in Koranic schools. Or the ‘possessed’ children in the Congo. Instead of confronting those responsible head on, we must make them aware of the consequences of their actions. We must work on the root causes of this abuse. It’s a long-drawn-out process, which requires, in addition to initiatives from associations to house and educate these children, the involvement of States and a change of attitude from society as a whole. The reason behind this international day on 12th April is to highlight this phenomenon that affects millions of children. This is why Apprentis d’Auteuil – a member of the Consortium for Street Children – joins its partners for this special day to advocate for street children.