The surge in the number of street children in Ibadan poses several security challenges. IBPulse intern, Joyce Nzei reports
Every January 31st is recognized as Street Children Day. The day was launched in the year 2009 by Jugend Eine Welt, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the canonisation of John Bosco, the ‘Father and Teacher of Youth’. The day is not being celebrated in Nigeria, as it is in Austria, but there is the need to acknowledge children on the streets.
In Ibadan, they are everywhere. Some are on the streets with their parents, especially mothers. The painful part about this is that these children know nothing aside begging. It is almost as if they were born to beg! No school, no friends, nothing exciting or fun. Their mothers await them on the road or somewhere else, while they move around. You would be moved to give money to a single mother of twin babies. The question that comes to mind is: Where is the father of these children? Some children got lost by some unfortunate incident and cannot remember their way back home. Hence, they are stranded on the streets, roaming about aimlessly and begging anyone they see for food, money and other items.
Another category of street children are those who deliberately ran away from assault (physical, sexual), all kinds of violence and other unbearable conditions they were subjected to at home. Some children are assaulted without the knowledge of the ever-busy parents, and decide to break free at some point. Others took the streets to help provide food and other necessities for their families. These are the hustlers, who would take on any menial job just to support their siblings and even older relatives. Few take to the streets because they lack direction, guidance and a place to call home.
These children are exposed to all the dangers on the streets. Some get raped, kidnapped and manhandled by street hoodlums. The tough ones become streetwise and join the bad gangs on the streets. They become pickpockets and may eventually grow to be armed robbers, assasins, kidnappers, rapists and all sorts of criminals. They specialize in disrupting the peace and sanity of law-abiding citizens. The harsh conditions of the weather, accidents and other terrible conditions even send some to their early graves. Most of them are not psychologically or mentally balanced, and exhibit violent traits at the least provocation.
There have been several reports of babies being dumped after birth in bushes, by the roadside, inside empty cartons and so on. It is quite disheartening that these innocent babies do not get to enjoy the love of a mother or the warmth of a home. Most of them die before they are being discovered.
Since this is very rampant in Ibadan, one begins to wonder what the Ministry of Women Affairs is doing to stop this trend. What are the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and orphanage homes doing to help the helpless babies?
I strongly believe that no child should be on the streets and parents must be ready to take care of their children since it is part of their parental obligations. Youths who are not ready or capable of catering for child should take preventive measures, to avoid bringing them into the world to suffer for their own carelessness.
The importance of family planning cannot be over-stressed for married couples. They should agree on the number of children they can adequately cater for, and avoid exceeding that number.
The Police also has a role to play in getting displaced children back to their parents. This way, hoodlums would not have access to them and crime rates should decrease reasonably. In the same vein, religious bodies should teach children the consequences of crime and follow up on their progress.
Educational institutions are not left out. Aside specific subjects gearing towards building a responsible child, they should strongly encourage pupils/students to seek guidance and counselling when they need help. Every school should have an experienced and approachable counsellor.
In reference to the terrorists and suicide bombers causing unrest in the country, every institution has to wake up to their responsibilities and help these children get off the streets.
Next time you see a child on the street, remember that there is an untold tale and a silent cry for help by an helpless kid who may become great in future.