Tuesday, 10 July 2012

"If in doubt, count"

A series of articles in Environment & Urbanization highlights the lack of data about informal settlements and how that leads to their exclusion from government services and public investments, including education. The papers focus on how the inhabitants of informal settlements can document themselves, in a series of initiatives in different countries undertaken by federations belonging to Shack/Slum Dwellers International.

In Accra, for instance, people living in an informal settlement were concerned that they were being targeted by a government resettlement programme that would shift them to the outskirts of the city, far from their places of work and with inadequate provision of education or transport. They enumerated their own settlement first in 2004, finding a much higher population than expected: around 24,000, with children under 15 making up more than 20% of the population. The enumerations gradually gained public recognition of the slum, and was eventually recognized as official data by local government. The data was used in public debates and helped to stay the threat of forced eviction, and following a second enumeration in 2006/7, it helped shift government policy away from forced evictions.

This is a continued struggle, though, as the article shows: after a change of government in 2008 the policy was about to be shifted back. Once again, community members had to campaign for evictions to be stalled so that another enumeration could be carried out. They argued successfully that they could not be relocated without first assessing their needs and numbers.

The other articles are on India, Uganda, Cape Town (South Africa), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Namibia, Zimbabwe and Xilapa (Mexico). There are also examples from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Fiji and Thailand. What surprises me is that none of the articles specifically highlight documentation of the shortage of government schools in and around informal settlements, and none of the projects seem to have been used to advocate for better education provision. Perhaps because it is often not within the power of local governments to open new schools? Or is education just not the top priority of these communities when faced with the more pressing threat of eviction and forced relocation?

No comments:

Post a Comment