THE statistics are staggering and mind-numbing. About 10.5 million Nigerian children of school age are not enrolled in schools. About nine million are classified as children of beggars, fishermen and other less privileged people in the society. Most of these children, who did not beg their parents to bring them into the world, are not being catered for as they should. The state is also not doing enough to ensure the well-being of these children. The result is that some of them are trafficked within and outside the shores of this country to whatever adversity that befell them.
What is most frightening is the large number of children who are running away from their parental or foster homes to embrace the vagaries of street life. They are called urchins. But it is sad that these urchins, once upon a time, had great dreams like other children growing up in the comfort of their parental homes. Some of the urchins had dreams of going to school, of having some sort of higher educational qualifications that will enable them to live better. Unfortunately, some of them were lured by their relations who promised them a better life in the city. They believed them only for them to realise, when they arrived the city, that they had been fooled or hoodwinked, and going back home is out of the question because they do not have the wherewithal.
The result is that after going through abusive treatment, some of them escape from their tormentors to live on the streets and fend for themselves anyway they can. They sleep under bridges, abandoned vehicles or uncompleted houses. The society, at large, sees these children on a daily basis, especially on the streets of major Nigerian cities like Lagos. They see them beg. They see them turn into emergency car windscreen cleaners when there is heavy traffic. They urchins have feelings like all of us and they are hurt when some car owners yell at them not to touch their cars. Such thoughtless actions on the part of motorists can turn some of the street children into dangerous elements even though they are already becoming a major threat to the society as some are now victims of drug abuse/addiction, prostitution. Some of them become pick pockets and armed robbers. And the society is watching though sometimes some haphazard efforts are made by the government to round up the children and take them to homes where some usually escape from.
The plight of street children caught the attention of the editorial board of Realnews which decided to investigate how they survive on a daily basis and why they prefer to live in the street. They story was assigned to Anayo Ezugwu, our reporter, who is fast mastering the art of investigative reporting. He spent one month stalking the street children, giving them money where need be to ferret out information about their daily activities and what pushed them to the streets. Ezugwu’s heart rending findings on the weird ways of street children were captured in the cover story of this week’s issue of the magazine entitled: Street Children: Hopeless Future for 9 million Nigerian Kids. The story is thought provoking. Enjoy it.
— Aug. 26, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT