Why Boys?

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The Invisible Boys Living on the Streets in Uganda

Asiyeonekana watoto mtaani means invisible street kid in Swahili ... and we believe that no child should be invisible.

Uganda has one of the largest populations of young people in the world— half (51%) of its 49 million people are under the age of 15, making up the largest demographic group living in poverty within the country. Poverty, neglect, and sexual, physical and emotional abuse, are leading factors in children leaving home to live on the streets.  But the #1 reason given by the kids is their desire to study. They come to the streets looking to make money for school fees. But what happens is something entirely different. 

Shule Foundation, Jackie Wolfson, street kids, Uganda, Kisenyi, education, drop in center, rehabilitation

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Children living on its streets are some of the most marginalized globally. Abhorred and mistreated, they are vulnerable to physical, mental, and sexual abuse. Many turn to sniffing mafuta (a combination of airplane fuel and industrial glue) to help cope with the harshness of street life, endure physical and sexual abuse, curb hunger, induce sleep, numb emotions, and to forget their lives. These invisible children sleep on the ground under makeshift shelters, eat only what they can scavenge, and lack access to even the most basic services — including showers and toilets.

Street-connected children use the money they earn to buy substances because it is cheaper than food. 

On average, In Kampala, Uganda's capital city, 16 newcomers arrive on the streets daily. 98% of them are boys.

Why Boys Matter:  Empowering Young Lives for a Brighter Future

"The best thing we can do for the girl child is raise boys to grow up to become good men who can take care of themselves and their families." ~ Jacqueline Wolfson, Founder, Shule Foundation

Over the past 25 years, much effort has been directed towards empowering girls, promoting gender equality, and ensuring they receive education. However, the boy child has been left behind in this pursuit, resulting in an imbalance. Unfortunately, this imbalance has come at a cost to the boy child. At Shule Foundation, we believe every child has equal worth and potential, so we have introduced the Watoto Mtanni program. This program aims to address the neglected needs of boys and provide them with an equal chance to thrive. We want to share with you some statistics highlighting the urgency of our mission.

1. Boyhood Challenges:
In Uganda alone, a staggering 98% of children living on the streets are boys. These boys face immense hardships, lacking access to education, shelter, and a nurturing environment. We cannot turn a blind eye to their struggles any longer.

2. Education Disparity:
Currently, 132 million boys worldwide do not attend school, mirroring the number of girls facing the same plight. This represents a significant missed opportunity for their personal growth, skill development, and prospects. By bridging this educational gap, we can unlock their full potential.

3. Vulnerabilities and Discrimination:
Tragically, one out of 6 boys experiences sexual assault, while 88 million boys are subjected to child labor. Moreover, 7 out of 10 boys are recruited as child soldiers, and they face a higher likelihood of becoming victims of corporal punishment. These distressing statistics underline the urgent need to address the vulnerabilities faced by boys and protect their rights.

4. Transformative Power of Education:
Education is not just a key to breaking the cycle of poverty but is also instrumental in fostering gender equality, combating climate change, and promoting global stability. Research has shown that boys without secondary education are more likely to perpetuate discriminatory views and engage in violence against women and children. We can create a more equitable and just society by empowering boys through education.

5, Africa's Educational Challenge:
With Africa projected to be home to 41% of the world's youth population by 2030, it is crucial to address the educational exclusion within the region. More than half of Africa's children do not have access to education, denying them a pathway to a brighter future. By focusing on Uganda, where only 8% of age-appropriate students are enrolled in school, we can profoundly impact the lives of young boys and the nation's overall development.

Shule's Watoto Mtaani Program

To address these challenges faced by boys who live on the streets and enhance their quality of life, Shule's Watoto Mtaani ("street kids" in Swahili) Program conducts outreaches, operates a drop-in center, and offers skills training in poultry farming, fashion, and computers. Furthermore, we provide rehabilitation services, counseling, medical care, family reconciliation, educational sponsorship, and many other services to support the street boys of Uganda.

Join our Volunteer Movement

By volunteering with the Shule Foundation, you can make a meaningful difference in the lives of Uganda's most vulnerable children, particularly young boys. Together, we can provide them with the education, guidance, and support they need to break free from the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future. Explore the incredible volunteer opportunities and become an agent of change.

We have some fantastic volunteer opportunities; find out more here.