Street Children in Kenya: Voices of Children in Search of a Childhood

By Wachira, Patrick; Swadener, Beth Blue | Multicultural Education, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Street Children in Kenya: Voices of Children in Search of a Childhood


Wachira, Patrick, Swadener, Beth Blue, Multicultural Education


STREET CHILDREN IN KENYA: VOICES OF CHILDREN IN SEARCH OF A CHILDHOOD By Philip Kilbride, Collete Suda, and Enos Njeru Bergin & Garvey Publishers, 2000. ISBN 0-89789-529-0, $55.00, hardcover.

Street Children in Kenya provides an in-depth examination of the experiences of street children in Nairobi, Kenya. Drawing from participant observations, individual and focus group interviews, Kilbride, Suda, and Njeru enable readers to confront the harsh realities, suffering, and survival skills of some 400 of the over 40,000 homeless children in Nairobi.

These children are part of the over 110,000 children described by UNICEF as "in need of special protection" (GOK/ UNICEF, 1998). Reflecting the anthropological and sociological disciplines of the authors, the book begins with methodological and contextual background for the study, including relevant information on the setting, Nairobi, the communities studied, and on social and cultural issues affecting families.

Most chapters are infused with existential perspectives on the children's lives. The final chapter addresses policy and practice, particularly in terms of long-term, culturally framed potential solutions to this complex and growing problem.

This book will be of interest to researchers in several disciplines, including multicultural and early childhood education, cultural anthropology, family sociology, as well as human rights advocates, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and policy-makers. A unique contribution of the study is its methodology, which involved older street youth as co-researchers, giving cameras to children to document daily life.

The study also made effective use of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration that enabled the researchers to meet the unique challenges inherent in studying street children. Among the cross-cultural interactions involved in the book were those of the children, who came from different ethnic groups and continued to maintain a number of their cultural traditions even on the street.

Street Children in Kenya addresses a critical, global issue that is, in many ways, a by-product of rapid globalization, structural adjustment programs, and increasing poverty and urbanization. The reduction of government spending on education, health, and social services in Kenya has meant that many alternative services are run by religious organizations and NGOs. This book's publication is well timed, given the urgency of this issue, as evidenced by the growing number of initiatives and increasing media attention in Kenya and in many other nations.

Given the paucity of authentic crosscultural collaborative research, we considered the Kenyan-U.S. research team to be a strength of this study and book. Such efforts contribute to the long and complex process of decolonizing research in Africa and to the quality and depth of the research. …

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