Limiting Spaces of Informal Learning among Street Children in Peru
A chapter from Informal Education, Childhood and Youth: Geographies, Histories, Practices edited by Sarah Mills & Peter Kraftl. The author, Dena Aufseeser, has made a version available to read online.
Education has long been presented as one of the main paths to both national and human development, and is increasingly embraced by a wide range of actors such as the World Bank, Save the Children and local non-governmental organisations as a key element of poverty reduction. Yet, education is almost exclusively defined as formal schooling, neglecting alternative spaces in which many children learn. This chapter explores the learning experiences of street children, or those young people who work in informal jobs in the city streets of Lima and Cusco, Perú, in the context of increased formalisation of education. I argue that following supposedly universal models of childhood serve to devalue certain spaces of learning, as well as whole groups of children themselves. In direct contrast to arguments promoted by international development organisations, school is not the only space in which learning takes place. Yet, false assumptions about where and how children learn may actually limit the ability of some children to succeed in school, as well as hinder their learning opportunities in other spaces. In particular, in the context of anti-child labour campaigns, which are organised on the basis of the incompatibility of work and education, the amount of learning that occurs through street work is increasingly limited.