Children are learning acrobatics as an alternative to life on the streets in Guinea. Some of the children trained at The Tinafan Centre, in the capital, Conarky have gone on to join the world famous Cirque du Soleil. The centre’s acrobat troupe, currently on a tour with performances in Algeria, Cambodia and the United States, is a source of pride for the impoverished east African nation, where 70 per cent of the population lives below the international poverty line of 80p ($1.25) a day.“I have seen some of them who became stars,” said. Ibrahima Bamba, the centre’s director. “Many start rebuilding their lives, and it makes me very happy.”
Guinea’s children often find themselves lacking protection or support and are exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation, including prostitution. The Tinafan centre acts as a safe haven for these children, providing them with counselling, reading and writing lessons, arts training and proper meals. “They’re happy that they can come here every day,” Mr Bamba, added.And the children are eager to learn. “They didn’t have the opportunity to go to a regular school, says the acrobatics teacher Hadja Kade Sek. “ We want them to learn a bit of what the other children are learning, on top of their skills as acrobats,” he told the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) As well as the acrobatics, Children at the centre also get professional training in practical skills such as sewing, metal and leather making. The idea is to lift them out of poverty by giving them skills they can use to provide for themselves in future.“Not all of them will become stars, so we want them to have a job in their hands for their future,” says Fofana Malik, the head art teacher. “The idea behind this project,” says UNICEF Representative in Guinea Julien Harneis, “is to build on what’s strong in the
Guinean culture itself. We wanted to find something that had an international reputation and help children thrive out of their village, their city and their country, and show something spectacular to the world.” The goal is to build contacts with world-renowned circuses and give more of Guinea’s street children chance to reach their full potential. In Guinea, one girl attends school for every two boys according to figures from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Children, particularly girls, are kept out of school in to help their parents with housework or farming. Government resources for education are limited.