One giant LEAP: children go from the street to school success

Children in a class at Ebusakami Primary School, one of the schools taking part in the LEAP Together programme (Theirworld/Cara Ghoshal)

Learning support assistants and parenting workshops are key parts of a project supported by Theirworld in Kenya that has worked with more than 200 street-connected children.

At the age of 11, Mitchel* was unable to write or even read short words. Her teachers in Kenya had almost given up on her.

Behind Mitchel’s education struggle was a story of neglect. After her parents separated, she and her two younger siblings lived with their father. But he had a drink problem and was rarely at home.

The result was Mitchel skipping school to look after the children and selling goods on the streets to buy food.

But a project supported by Theirworld, called LEAP (Learning, Educating And Protecting) Together – run by Chance for Childhood and its in-country partner Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programmes – identified her as having street connections and special educational needs.

A learning support assistant was assigned to her and her family – and one year later, Mitchel’s life has been transformed. Now aged 12, she said: “Through the support of my extra teacher, I have been able to carry out my class work with ease.”

Thousands of children live on the streets of Kenya, where those with special educational needs get little nurturing care or hope for the future. LEAP Together has supported more than 220 children in Vihiga County.

A positive parenting workshop held for parents engaging with the LEAP Together programme (Theirworld/Cara Ghoshal)

Here we look at the project in more depth – through statistics and stories of the children it works with.

The numbers

  • 224 children have been assisted by the network of learning support assistants (LSAs) at 12 schools since LEAP Together began in January 2022.
  • 95% of those have been attending school regularly and 190 of the children are now able to read, write, understand and respond to questions at their expected level of learning.
  • 199 parents and caregivers attended positive parenting workshops. 81% of parents said they had used the techniques to create a better home environment for their children.
  • 20 Violence Prevention Activists (VPAs) were trained to work with the community and officials to raise awareness and refer child protection cases.

“I began supporting the child when she wasn’t able to write well. Through her dedication and interest, she is now able to carry out her class work with ease

A LEAP Together learning support assistant

Mitchel’s story

As well as learning support for Mitchel, her father received help for his alcohol issues through a VPA. Chance for Childhood said: “Her father has become a responsible man who is now able to provide for his family and keep his children in school.”

“Mitchel’s self-esteem improved. She made friends and became lively and actively participated in class. In the end-of-year exams in November, she scored above average in nearly all subjects.

Mitchel’s teacher said: “I was surprised to see the child’s father in school, checking on the progress of his children as well as paying the child’s exam fee. This project has brought great impact in this family.”

Tracy’s story

Tracy* is 13 and has two brothers aged nine and six. When their parents separated, they stayed with their father until he abandoned them.

With some help from relatives, Tracy looked after her siblings for 18 months and they all attended Ebututi Primary School sporadically. When a VPA identified the children, they revealed they had survived with the help of relatives and friends.

Chance for Children said: “Several children are the breadwinners at home, especially those who live with sick or elderly parents and abandoned children. This made them miss school because they had to work to earn enough money to buy food.”

In Tracy’s case, discussions were held with relatives and the children’s department, which resulted in the children being officially cared for by their aunt and uncle.

Theirworld’s support for LEAP Together is thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.