Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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DANIEL Gebretsadik Ayele, Dilla University, Ethiopia

The aim of this article is to advance debates on a child-centered approach to work and school by describing the place of both in children's lives. The empirical data used in this study were gathered through repeated periods of fieldwork carried out in 2014 with street-working children in Dilla town, Southern Ethiopia. Observation, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were used to collect the relevant data. While work remains a fundamental part of children's lives, many street-working children go through a schooling trajectory. For these children, working and schooling are a mixed blessing which cannot be easily separated. Children see work as their duty. They consider work not just as a means of survival but also an obligation to their poor parents. Although they live in the shadow poverty, children included in this study need to work to make a living while attending school because their circumstances oblige them to do so. Combining work and school takes a toll on children but the children struggle to manage it. However, high upfront and hidden costs of schooling, large class sizes, dearth of school resources, lessons that suffer from narration sickness, school-based violence, excessive corporal punishment, discrimination, and marginalization founded on gender and children's socioeconomic background are conditions that adversely shape children's schooling endeavor. The potential implications of these problems include the need to provide children the social support they deserve, the need for a flexible learning approach that respects children who conclude that their best option is a combination of earning and learning and late school system suits the needs of those for whom it is intended.