NOUSPR with children whose education is affected by Psychosocial Disability and Poverty
On 3rd October 2014 Stephen, Tugume and I went to Gatunda to deliver sewing machines to youths and children from homes of persons with psychosocial disability. There are hundreds of children and youths who have dropped out of school as their parents have failed to raise money for school fees due to extreme poverty.
We drove for three and a half hours to GIRUMWETUKORE in Nyagatare district, through the rolling hills of Umutara, in the Eastern part of Rwanda. This is where the Rwandan war of the 1990s begun and people continue to suffer from psychosocial disabilities.
For the last three years we have been planning and working together to overcome the challenges of psychosocial disability and poverty and all the challenges that come with it. The group has mobilized 79 children and youths who are either looking after their parents who struggle with psychosocial problems, or looking after their siblings as child headed families preventing them from going on streets. Also some of the children come from broken homes and do not receive adequate parenting. Poverty is a compounding problem that hugely impacts on their future. We have managed to bring together those who have been roaming the streets of nearby towns and in the regional centre of Nyagatare. Some of these street children are suspected of taking drugs and committing petty crimes. NOUSPR applies a simple test as to whether these children have the desire to adopt a normal life; ‘will you come back tomorrow?
The youth have many stories of abuse and violations of their rights. We know that children who have never gone to school are likely to be exploited as child labour and abused in other ways. The impact of coming from parents with psychosocial disability is also affecting them as the families are often unable to afford the costs associated with schooling. Bullying is a problem at school because they are seen as coming from a ’psychosocial disability family’.
NOUSPR is aware that the period between being a child and adulthood is key to acquiring the attitudes, competencies, values, and social skills that will enable them to become responsible adults. It is also the time when they need to make choices about negative behaviors that will limit their potential. Parents and families play a crucial role in helping young people navigate this phase which can be missed by those with parents suffering from mental illness. In the past neighbours and communities used to play an important role in the development and support of young people, this was indeed an enduring image of Rwandan life. Unfortunately this long-established community role is diminishing.
NOUSPR is keen to support children whose parents have experienced mental illness and who suffer from poverty to acquire life skills. We will pay for trainers, buy books, uniforms and help with other fees to ensure children have opportunities as we firmly believe that education is a key factor in alleviating poverty.
It is our hope that the training and income generating opportunities that result from the use of these sewing machines will enable the children to develop in ways that respect the rights of others; to learn how to interact positively with individuals and groups, and to care for themselves and their environment. By attending our classes they will learn to recognize the consequences of their behavior, choose positive outcomes, and develop problem solving skills.
We plan to have a class room or work station for youth in each of the 9 districts where our 14 groups are based. This will help us to plan for a wider program addressing the overwhelming problem of homeless children. We hope to assist young people to develop positive attitudes despite the psychosocial disabilities affecting them.
NOUSPR is thankful to our Friend Steven K. Coudle and his family and the Action for Street Kids (ASK) who have enabled us to begin this program, we hope it will keep sustained for the benefit of the vulnerable Children.
By BADEGE Sam
Founder and Director of NOUSPR