Attending school gives a healthy structure for the daily life of children living on the street and, above all, hope for a better future. The school at Bahir Dar recently had visitors from Finland.
”The pupils were happy to get to this school. They have different backgrounds, and a third of the pupils come from the streets,” says the teacher of the class Alemnesh Zemenu.
There are no discipline problems in this class.
The street children make their living by shining shoes and selling chocolate and gum on the streets after school. According to Zemenu, some of the children live with host families, but some still sleep on the street.
The pupils aim at becoming teachers, reporters, nurses and lawyers.
About 1.300 pupils have finished this school in 2002-2010, and nearly a half of them have continued studying in a public school, some of them even in a university. As the school has very limited premises, the pupils attend school in groups in the mornings and in the afternoons.
English studies begin already on the first grade. The pupils are also taught the Amharic language, mathematics and environmental studies. The pupils also learn some Finnish and about Finland. The classroom walls have posters made by groups of children in the Finland-themed classes.
The Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia supports the non-governmental organisation FSCE (Forum on Sustainable Child Empowerment), which also contributes to this school. The organisation advocates children's rights and tries to improve the lives of underprivileged children.
The work varies from health education to family reunification and from anti-THB (trafficking in human beings) activities to helping the orphan.
The number of street children in Bahir Dar has increased, allegedly because of death of parents and divorces. Life on the streets without any protection is dangerous. Children are prone to theft, rape and other types of violence.
The FSCE works in close cooperation with the local police. The police offer legal assistance for physically and sexually abused children.
The aid works in two ways: the children know how to find their way to the station, and the police are actively offering help to the children living on the street. The police can offer a temporary shelter for children in their premises. They also have a helpline service for children to phone in.
One of the police officers says there are cases of trafficking in human beings also in Ethiopia, where children are taken from the rural areas to cities. The phenomenon is still rather rare, but it exists.
Finland has supported the FSCE by 272.500 euros in 2002-2009.