There are many reasons why children in Casablanca end up on the streets. Some are fleeing broken homes, some are fleeing violence, and others are escaping poverty. But whatever their different reasons for ending up on the street, their prospects are the same: they face drug abuse, more violence, illness and depression.
No one knows exactly how many street children there are in Casablanca but some estimates put the number at between 600 and 1,000. They come from all parts of Morocco—some as young as six—and assemble at Casablanca’s main train station where they end up begging or selling cigarettes.
Some will face sexual exploitation and others will be forced to work in domestic service. Despite government efforts to help get the children and young people off the streets and back into mainstream society, most public institutions dealing with the issue are understaffed and overcrowded.
Bayti was set up in 1994 with the aim of protecting children from all kinds of violence, getting them off the streets and reintegrating them with their families where possible. Bayti — which means ‘My Home’ in Arabic — runs a child friendly residential care centre where social workers, psychologists and paediatricians are on hand to offer the children support. Many arrive with chronic diseases but according to Bayti, they report significant health improvements after 3 months. The organisation also runs a 12-month education programme that provides tuition in literacy and numeracy allowing the children access to mainstream education.
Bayti’s farming training programme provides young people with all the training required in the field of agriculture to allow them to gain employment in the sector. Bayti’s residential centre has the capacity to host 84 children and young people while its education programme serves 123 beneficiaries annually.
Up to 40 children benefit from the farming programme annually, none of who were reported to have gone back to street life. Ninety per cent of the farming training graduates go on to find employment within six months of graduation.
Bayti is part of several advocacy networks lobbying the government through research and media campaigns to combat the exploitation of children.
Photos: Imad Abouliout/Stars Foundation