A review of
literature on children's mobility and transport needs shows
that this is a relatively under-researched area. Available studies
focus on travel to and from school and road safety, with particular
emphasis on children residing in urban areas of developed countres.
Very little attention is given to children's mobility needs
and constraints in rural areas of developing countries. An area
seldom considered in case studies on children and childhood,
or theorised within a child rights framework, is the impact
of a lack of transport infrastructure on children's development,
well being, and their livelihood contexts.
Recent studies show childrens
transport needs are not only related to their need to access
educational facilities and care related services but also dependent
on the livelihood or household activities they engage in (Turner
& Kwakye, 1996, Rama 1999, Robson 2004, Porter 2004). Studies
on children's time use show that birth order, family size and
composition, sex composition of the sibling group, age, gender,social
class, and locale all have an impact on the types of activities
in which children engage, as well as the amount of time they
spend on the activities (Ben-Arieh & Ofir, 2002; and Rama
and Richter, 2005). Girls in particular shoulder a heavier burden
of household work. Many of the activities girls engage in are
undertaken on foot, are labour intensive, time consuming, involve
head loading, and/or may include the simultaneous activity of
carrying children on their backs. In households owning, for
example, bicycles or animal driven carts these are usually exclusively
used by boys and males.
The available studies on children's
mobility and transport indicate that more investigation is needed
to determine among others the impact of mobility and access
constraints for children's, particularly girl's, development,
well-being, participation in education and, in future, labour
market activities (Porter & Blaufuss, 2004). The 1999 UNICEF
State of the World's Children report, for example, cites studies
in Nepal that show for every kilometer a child walks to school
the likelihood of school attendance drops by 2.5%. This figure
rises for girls and children with disabilities. Fatigue, exhaustion,
risk of dangers such as sexual assault and road accidents are
some of the contributory factors to non-attendance or irregular
attendance. Similarly a recent report on education in South
African rural communities (Nelson Mandela Foundation 2005) found
that children travelling considerable distances are being turned
away from school for being late. In most instances the resaon
for being late is that children did household work such as the
collection of water, or wood/dung before leaving for school.
Barriers that constrain or exclude children from accessing educational
facilities, health or welfare services impacts not only on their
development and well-being but also infringe on their rights.
What this suggests is that there
needs to be a shift to more child centred methodologies where
the child rather than the family, household or school is the
central theoretical and analytical unit of observation, measurement
and interpretation. when we begin to conceptualise and identify
children's mobility and accessibility constraints and needs
in a child-centred manner, we can also factor into the analysis
and theorising, aspects relating to gender,locale, class divisions,
and population group, as well as issues such as children's development
trajectories, and the relevance of age or sub group dissaggregation
of information. For example statistics on infants and toddlers,
pre-schoolers, children in school care, those not in school
and adolescents. Within this framework the child's actions,
needs, experiences, and social world are the immediate focus.
This approach not only presents a challenge to developing appropriate
and affordable modes of travel for children, but also issues
of how to mainstream the transport needs of children into transport
planning and policymaking.
By Sharmla Rama,
Child, Youth and Family Development (CYFD) Research Programme
Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa
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