Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


There is broad compelling evidence that the need for paid work and concomitant lack of access to education are continuing the poverty cycle for a very large number of children and youths across the world, especially migrant and refugee children. This research investigates the effectiveness of Government Organisations (GOs) and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) which provide programmes and services to the Afghan and Pathan children working on the streets in two major cities in Pakistan. In this research, the new Sociology of Childhood and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are used as the normative and analytical frameworks. These two frameworks consider children as rights bearers who have agency, and that such attributes need to be recognised and respected across the world. Using these frameworks, the research focuses on children and youth– the Afghan and Pathan - working on the streets, living with their families and using services from GOs and NGOs. The services provided include Drop-In-Centres (DICs), primary schools and vocational schools, among other services. In this research, five case study organisations were identified; two GOs and three NGOs, all in the major cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in Pakistan.

Ethnographic research was taken as an approach to study the support organisations and the Afghan and Pathan communities (Creswell 2013, p. 90). Participant observation and other qualitative research methods and techniques were chosen as the primary basis for data collection, because these offer the richest insights for understanding children, youth and their families’ daily lives. As the study group comprises children and youth, innovative and creative research techniques included semi-structured interviews, focus group discussion, life histories and field observation were used. Other innovative techniques included writing, drawings and photo elicitation to involve children and youth in the whole research process and to make them comfortable and relaxed so they enjoyed the process and offered real insights. To involve children in this research, a complete ethics protocol was approved, and followed throughout the research process and data generation. A total of 30 children and youth, aged between twelve and sixteen were accessed through identified organisations. To get an insight of views of children’s parents, five life histories/stories were also conducted with the consent of the children. In addition to this, interviews were conducted with chief executives of the organisations and some staff to get an understanding of street children’s issues in general, and those for the Afghan and Pathan young people in particular. Secondary data from organisations in the form of policies, action plans, reports and proposals, national and international reports on children in general, and street children in particular, were collected and analysed.

Two kinds of investigations are undertaken, one from the perspective of the children, youth and their families, and the other using more formal criteria. The investigation of organisations by children and their families shows that organisations are effective in improving the welfare and development of working children only to a limited extent. The children, youth and their families revealed their appreciation that through the organisations, children were able to get an opportunity to learn something. They also expressed appreciation of the kind attitudes of NGOs staff towards them. The children, youth and their parents believed that there was good value for them that the children could attend DICs and schools, and that some children could get stipends and lunch as well. However, keeping the sociology of childhood and the UNCRC as tools of analysis, the data also reveals that organisations are focusing on surface symptoms rather than analysing the root causes of problems for children and their families, root causes such as, poverty, attitudes of parents towards children’s education, health and work, traditions and norms among other things. It is analysed that the GOs could not provide social protection to children and youth on different fronts and could not develop a comprehensive social protection system due to lack of political will and budgetary issues. In the same vein, the NGOs are not able to focus on individual and community development and empowerment because of their narrow project based approach. The performance of the organisations needs to be improved to bring about a sea change in the lives of Pathan and Afghan children and youth in general, and in particular, girls who live in a patriarchal society. An in-depth understanding of daily lives of children, youth and their families is required to develop effective and efficient policies, programmes and services that change can be seen at individual and collective levels. In this regard, GOs and NGOs need to collaborate to investigate thoroughly and so begin to solve the issues on sustainable basis in a manner which recognises children’s agency and enables the ideals of UNCRC to be established effectively within Pakistan.