He really wanted school: Edi's story

Edi is a 8-year-old boy from Mombasa, Kenya. Although Edi had a home and a family, he survived on the streets with his two siblings. With his mother being ill, and the father mostly absent, the three children did not have any one to care for them at home.

“He really wanted school”: Edi’s road to education

When Glad’s House Kenya (GHK) Street Workers first met him, Edi shared his story and expressed his desire to go to school. After a short conversation, he agreed to join Glad’s House education activities, and shared his real identity to enable Street Workers to track down his family and plan an intervention.

Edi was illiterate, dangerously malnourished and in desperate need for care and affection. “When we met him, he did not know how to write his name, was malnourished and would call GHK staff aunts and uncles which is not very common for the children.  This showed his hunger for love and being embraced”, reports a GHK Street Worker. As part of their intervention, GHK’s team brought the child to a healthcare centre for a medical check-up where they found out that he was HIV positive.

It was after visiting Edi’s mother, and talking to their neighbours and the community leader, that the Street Workers realised what was holding the child back from going to school: a family struggling both emotionally and financially. “The mother was depressed, jobless and never cared for the children to say the least….”, says the Street Worker.

Leaving the streets to attend education would mean giving up handouts such as food or money that Edi relied on to survive. Occasionally, the boy would also come home to give the money he would collect to his mother. As GHK explains, “The priorities and activities on the streets were an integral part of the issue. Edi was ensured food while on the streets, unlike at home. His mother back home depended on well-wishers and neighbours for food while his father remarried and did not care. On the other hand, the situation on the streets exposed him to more abuse from both peers and the public.”

People from the neighbourhood had tried to help Edi and his family before Glad’s House stepped in, but none of them was successful. “It did not work because no one worked with the mother to ensure continuity. They either focused on giving food to the mother or taking the child to school and the mother was not engaged. On the street the child could only get food and money from the public.”

The impact of Street Work in … life 

Keen on changing his story, Edi came to trust the Street Workers from the very beginning. “From the first contact, the Street Workers listened to the child and invited him to our temporary safe space centre.” He came in with other children who already knew the centre.  

“He really wanted school. The first day he spent the whole day trying to remind himself on how to write the alphabet.”

With the boy determined to get into school, Street Workers worked on a plan for intervention. “The main challenge was finding the mother and agreeing on how to support the child, and her accepting that she needed support in order to support her children…. She is not stable emotionally and on bad days she becomes violent to the boy and his siblings,” says the GHK Street Worker.

With the support of the village leader, the GHK team managed to reach out to the mother and, in time, persuaded her to take her child to school every day, despite the long ride from their rural home. “GHK bought all the necessary school equipment … he travelled quite a long journey with the mother every day, morning and evening, to attend classes.” To ensure a long-term solution to the family’s issues, GHK worked intensively with Edi’s mother to ensure her wellbeing: “We managed to relocate the mother to a place near to our safe space and have regular follow ups with her even at home.”

While supporting Edi in education, GHK also worked with the health centre and the local Department of Children’s Services to secure HIV treatment for the child and a daily meal for the whole family to discourage the children from resorting to the streets for support.

“Getting to the solution has been gradual. We met the child in early February, enrolled him into a small school around then. We had to plan for counselling sessions for his mother as well. Although she is not yet stable to fully support the child, she is settled at home.”

Street Workers played a crucial role in setting a different path for Edi’s life. “Through regular follow ups, letting the child participate in the intervention, setting up short-term plans and reviewing them – our role has been key because the mother had until recently been living in isolation.”

Today, Edi lives with his mother and siblings away from the streets. They have temporarily moved back to their original home to obtain their ID and birth registration documents. “They also met their extended family which they have never met. The child is more friendly, learning to express himself and becoming more confident.”

About Glad’s House Kenya, StreetInvest’s Regional Coordinating Partner for East Africa

Glad’s House Kenya (GHK) has been a leading local NGO in Mombasa for almost 15 years, having been established in 2006 to work with street-connected children and young people aged up to 30 years old.

GHK is an influential voice at the local level, sitting as an expert advisor in different governmental committees for children’s services. In 2018, Glad’s House partnered with county and national government to undertake a joint headcount of SCCYP in Mombasa.

GHK specialise in supporting children and young people deemed too ‘challenging’ for other programmes because of their behaviours and life choices, including substance misuse, running away from home, family or school, or crime. Street Workers are trained in how to identify, build trust with and support the most marginalised children, and Street Work reaches children that other interventions do not, where they are, on the street.

Our recent partnership

GHK and StreetInvest have been linked since 2009 and became formal partners in 2015 to achieve their common goal of ensuring that every street-connected child has a trusted adult in their life. Over the years, we have together developed the expertise and experience to lead a network of organisations in the city and have worked with national and county governments, the justice system and community.

In May 2021, Glad’s House and StreetInvest began a new Inclusive Education Programme. Visit our Kenya page and Glad’s House website to know more about their work.