| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
After the consideration of the problem and all the associated surrounding factors, the activities of the Centre were be implemented with an approach which continuously updates itself.
The following strategic actions constitute the basis of the implementation plan that the Centre will be carrying out in order to eliminate the problem of children working in the streets.
- Identification of the children working in the streets, their registration and introduction of the Centre to the children
- Encouraging the children to come to the Centre by making the Centre more attractive through decorative work.
- Providing necessary means that will ensure children’s access to the Centre and maintain regular attendance
- Providing all social, cultural, sports, artistic and educational services to the children, which they normally do not have access to
- Holding courses and seminars that would develop vocational skills and raise awareness of families while supporting them financially,
- Displaying the achievements of the children receiving educational help at the Centre therefore attracting other children with its multiplier effect,
- Monitoring the children until the end of their education and observing employment status of those who complete their education,
- Developing the relations of children with their peers through interactive contests, exhibitions, activities, etc. and discouraging social discrimination,
- Ensuring children’s participation in the educational and skill development courses rather than just making use of the playing grounds,
These strategic actions are put into service in the following order;
Field work is carried out by assigned personnel for the identification of children who work in the streets and their guidance to the Centre. Field work is mainly carried out in districts where children generally work. Information is also received from children attending the Centre for reaching other children in such situations.
Registration of Children at the Centre
Children between ages of 7 and 14 who are identified through field work or applied to the centre through school, relatives and friends are registered upon presentation of their ID cards, addresses and school information. Registration form also includes information about the children’s educational status, school details and information on the families’ socio-economic status. In some cases, information required on the registration forms is updated after meetings held with their families or administrators and teachers at their schools.
Following the registration procedure, Social Service specialists make a situation assessment and arrange family visits if and as necessary in accordance with the report they prepare. Family visits are made by Social Service specialists who determine the needs of the families and the children during these visits. In accordance with the report prepared after the visit, the families are provided with social benefits and consultancy services.
Monitoring School Attendance
All children registered at the Centre are monitored in respect to registration at school and their attendance. Families of children who are not registered at a school are visited and the reasons for not attending a school are investigated. Necessary conditions for children’s attendance are provided and registration at school is attained. The schools and families of children, who are registered at a school but have poor attendance, are also visited and their attendance status is closely monitored. The Centre works in collaboration with the school and the family throughout the whole process.
Benefiting from the Interest and Skills Course Activities
Children are guided to various courses during their registration, taking into consideration their interests and skills. Their participation is provided in courses such as theatre, folk dances, computers, painting, music, football, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, etc. Courses are given by master trainers in accordance with the curriculum. Handcrafted objects or paintings made by the children are displayed at showrooms of the municipality and in private centres. Children who pass the exams to be admitted to fine-arts high schools with the assistance of the courses at the Centre continue their studies at the Centre and become a good role model for other children.
Free Field Activities and Cultural Activities
In addition to interest and skills courses, children are provided to make use of various play grounds. In these playgrounds, table tennis, mini golf, pool, mini-basketball and several other sports tools are presented for the use of children. No curriculum is prepared for these playgrounds but teachers teach children how to play and how to use these tools. Municipality unit in charge (Social Services Department Directorate) prepares monthly cultural activities programs. Activities such as conferences, panels, concerts, theatre, painting exhibitions, etc. are organized under the scope of the program.
Assigned personnel follow-up children’s attendance to school and whether or not they are working, and if they are working, its frequency and the changes in their behaviour. Interviews are made with children who are not in rapport with other children or who do not behave according to stipulated rules. According to the result of the interview, psycho-social support unit may be applied. If this also proves insufficient, action to be taken for the child is decided in a meeting held with the participation of administrator, unit trainer and social service specialist. Moreover children who reach to the age of leaving the Centre are guided to register themselves with Youth Centre of the Municipality and benefit from the services provided there. Children who go to universities are invited to the Centre to motivate activities carried out at the Centre and to be role-models for other children. Some children are even employed at the Centre as trainers after they complete their education, as they can understand the children much better.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The most distinctive characteristic of the centre, as mentioned above, is not considering the problem as indexed to children but preventing children working on the streets and ensuring continuation of their education as a definite solution by including all the surrounding factors into the process. A permanent support mechanism is devised for children who, despite all supports, continue working in streets in order to prevent them to fall behind their capacities. During the implementation stage, the below-mentioned stakeholders contributed to the solution of the problem and establishment of a sustainable model. One of the most important factors for the success of this practice is the observation of the positive developments in the futures of the children who benefit from the facilities in the Centre by the other children who join the centre after them.
- Collaboration with the Police department was established in order to protect children from the risk of being pushed into crime, teach them the concept of crime primarily and take necessary precautions in accordance with their tendencies. Accordingly, Police Academy students form a friendship with children at the Centre in order to try to understand them and gain an important experience regarding how to protect them from the possible risks before the constitution of crimes.
- Collaboration with school administrations was established at schools where the children are registered in order to be informed about their attendance and notified immediately if they leave school. Sometimes, the children who do not go to school, or who come to the centre during the school hours and their families are interviewed and problems are analysed in depth leading to preventing children dropping out of school.
- Although services provided at the centre have a positive impact on the development of these children, inclusion of the civil society into the process, development of a better awareness in terms of their attitude and behaviour towards the children who work in streets, and providing a platform where children are able to meet their elders from various professional groups are the key elements of an important cooperation that enable the children dream of a better future.
- Pictures, various materials produced from recyclable goods and other artwork made by the children at the centre are exhibited at Ankara Metropolitan Municipality Exhibition Hall and Subway Exhibition Hall, and the achievements of the children are shared with the society. Successful works of the youngsters are later exhibited at the Belgium Embassy.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Centre was initially set up at a small section of a floor within the multi-storey car park at Sıhhıye district of Ankara before the entire floor (5,400 m2) was allocated for the centre as a result of the increasing demand for the Centre and its facilities. The Centre is open for 7 days a week between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. where 45 teachers, administrative and support personnel are employed. Participants of the activities organized in cooperation with NGO’s consist of volunteers. The Centre also serves lunch for children who cannot afford to provide themselves with the necessary nutrition. Ankara Metropolitan Municipality has been funding the activities and operational costs of the centre since 1997.
Presenting a better future to children, ensuring that they continue their education without any interruption and preventing them to remain under their capacities will also make them stronger at times of any possible economic crisis. Examining Eurostat data given on the
graph (Please see: OECD Economics Department Working Papers No. 1040 Page: 7 Figure 4, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k487n7hg08s-en) shows that the level of education was not a very important factor for unemployment in 2000 and before. However, after 2000 and especially during the economic crisis, it shows that education level was a very influential factor in Spain where there were so many youngsters affected from crisis.
Therefore, besides today’s conditions, preventing these children dropping out of their schools before any potential crisis stands out as an important factor. The evaluation of the human energy, financial and other resources spent for this Centre, which provides services for such lofty purposes, on benefit/cost basis are the other factors in sustaining the work at the centre.
Social workers and psychologists employed for the purpose of establishing a healthy communication with children also provide information to the other personnel regarding the attitude that should be adopted towards children and the most effective ways of establishing a dialog with them.
The Centre is established at a place close to the areas where children work, however children cannot be forced to come to the Centre. House visits often provide an insight that these children do not even get the essential nutrients and therefore suffer from malnutrition. Another observation is the fact that some of the children do not want to spend the money they earn on food. Therefore, free lunch is served at the Centre, which provides the children the full nutrition requirement for at least one meal a day. In addition, free bus services are provided by the Municipality between the districts the children live and the Centre, so that they can benefit from the Centre. The purpose is not only provide lunch or facilities to children at the Centre, but also keep them away from potential dangers in the districts they live and surroundings areas. The Centre also carries out Periodical health checks and offers personal healthcare services.
The following services are provided to children at the Centre under six categories;
• Social and Cultural Activities
• Educational Support
• Health Services
• Sports Services
• Catering Services
• Psychological- Social Support
Services and courses given under these categories are: Health screening and personal care, hot meal (casseroles), library, study centre, computer, wrestling, Taekwondo, Judo, chess- Abolone, table-tennis, table soccer, snooker, theatre, folklore dances, folk songs, baglama (a Turkish stringed musical instrument), guitar, piano, organ, painting and handicrafts. Entertainment programs and birthday celebrations are often held at the Centre which also organizes inner and outer city tours for the children.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The most important achievements of the Centre are as follows:
- Number of children working in Ankara streets was reduced from over 5 thousand to less than one thousand including the children under risk and despite the increasing population and internal migration during the past 15 years. This was achieved through helping their households, meeting the families, providing vocational education programs to parents who are unemployed due to insufficient education as well as the social, sports, educational, cultural and artistic support provided by the Centre.
- Attendance to school was achieved for children who had to drop out of school due to poverty and need to work in streets. Study programs in science and social sciences courses were initiated in order to help children with their lessons and ensure that they do not to fall behind their capacities. These children had a chance to complete their higher education in fine arts, sports and vocational high schools and universities with the help of these courses.
- Preventing of children working in the streets not only protected them from the negative physical, mental and psychological at an early age, but also kept them away from dangers like bad habits and getting involved in crime.
- The effective collaborative work carried out with universities, non-governmental organizations, schools and the Police Department, prevented social discrimination and alienation by the society and provided a platform for the children to receive an uninterrupted education. During various activities organized by NGO’s, children were given the opportunity to meet elders who can be role models, are able to dream of a better future for themselves and not to feel excluded from the society.
- Opportunity gap caused by urban poverty and the fact that all citizens cannot benefit from services equally is no longer valid for children working in streets. Facilities were improved in order to make the Centre more attractive for children so that they are eager to come to the Centre to benefit from the services. Free transportation facilities were also provided between the districts the children live and the Centre at least three times a day. This enabled them to catch up with other children getting any other opportunity from their parents or similar services from municipalities. In addition to those, children are always approached affectionately and without any prejudice.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Effectiveness of the Centre and sustainability of its efficiency are unconditionally and directly related to the extent to which the principles of the implementation plan are observed. Accordingly, field works are carried out in order to identify the children working in the street and the administrators and teachers of the schools in poor districts are contacted to reach the children facing the risk of working in the streets and their families therefore, communication is established between the Centre and children that actually work in the streets or have potential to work in the streets.
Dropping out of school and absence are also monitored within the school-family-Centre circle. As mentioned before, attendance of children to the Centre is voluntary. However, the time scales that the children come to and leave the Centre are also monitored in respect of protecting them from dangers that exist in places where they live and work. Children who do not come to the Centre as often as before are interviewed and reasons preventing them from coming to the Centre are eliminated.
One of the expectations of the Centre is the participation of the children in a skills, or sports activity or taking part in a cultural or social activity as well as embracing the Centre and making it their own. The Centre organizes social activity programs such as picnics and trips with the participation of members of various NGO’s occupational groups in order to present them to the children as role models.
Young students and previous graduates of the Centre who are currently studying at a university or have a profession are brought together. Children are given a chance to imagine a future. The efforts they put into reaching these dreams are monitored. They are told that these dreams can only be realized through education and encouraged to attend to school.
On the other hand, when children ask for a change in the activities they are benefiting from, or state that they cannot benefit from the services sufficiently, additional hours are provided for these services. Expansion process of the centre is an outcome of this huge demand. This Centre, which provided services in 2000 square meter area previously, was later expanded to a larger area to be able to accommodate the services required. When the families of the children visit the Centre see the activities that their children participate in, they become more willing to send them to the Centre.
The Centre is also a subject material for social policy research studies carried out by universities leading to the society to view the process from a scientific perspective.
Besides the assessments made by those receiving the service, the Centre’s activities are also audited periodically every year by an internal audit unit.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
As the fathers of some children coming to the Centre were in prison and their mothers could not find a job due to very little education, inevitably, children had to drop out of school and work in the streets. The Centre organized vocational training courses for their mothers aiming for occupations demanded in the labour market, such as patient care, sewing etc. However, some mothers did not want to participate with the excuse that they did not have anybody at home to take care of their younger children during training. To solve this problem, one of the rooms at the Centre was converted into a nursery and childcare services were provided to young children while their mothers were in training.
In addition to the above, majority of the children working in the streets are unsuccessful at school as an inevitable result of working in the streets. This leads them disliking school therefore becoming reluctant to attend. One of the drawbacks we were facing in keeping children away from working in the streets was the fact that they earned more money in a day than they would get as a pocket money for one week and could buy the things that their parents could not afford to get for them. Designing specific solutions for each child rather than a general solution was the preferred action. Following practices were implemented according to the specific circumstances of the children;
- Extra training was provided to children to support them in the courses they were unsuccessful at school,
- Basic food items and heating requirements were provided to families as part of the municipality’s social aid program therefore, any financial expectations from children were eliminated.
- In order to encourage parents’ participation in vocational education courses, courses offering job guarantee were organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
- Second-hand clothing donations are obtained from citizens in order to meet the clothing needs of the children registered in the Centre, these second-hand clothes are repaired, washed and ironed before they are distributed to children in need.
Another important problem encountered is the negative and dismissive perception in the society about children working in the streets and children addicted to substances. Presentation of these children in the news as potential criminals by the media was particularly causing exclusion of these children from the society. In order to change this prejudice, exhibitions showcasing the paintings and handcrafts produced by these children were held at busy places such as the subway stations and university campuses. Moreover, the Centre carried out informative activities in collaboration with other public organizations and NGOs in order to change this misperception and create awareness of the fact that these children do not present any danger but they are in danger themselves.