Globally, so many children are living on the streets. These children are popularly referred to as “street children.” This group of children are in most countries of the world-developed and developing- where there is poverty and hunger. Street children, according to Wikipedia, are “children experiencing poverty, homelessness or both, who are living on the streets of a city, town or village.” This definition of street children is contested, but it is stated “that many practitioners and policy makers use UNICEF’s concept of boys and girls, aged under 18 years, for whom “the street” (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and/or their source of livelihood, and who are inadequately protected or supervised.”
Children whose basic material needs cannot be provided within the household move to the street. We have street children in all the 36 states of Nigeria including the federal capital territory. They are in millions, according to reports. And some are on the streets due to conflict in the North Eastern part of Nigeria where about 3 million children cannot go to school. Hundreds are facing starvation everyday while many struggle in temporary camps where disease and hunger are rife, according to a report. It is on the streets that these children are subjected to abuse, neglect, exploitation, or, in extreme cases, murder by unidentified persons.
Poverty, hunger and sorrow make these children and perhaps, their parents miserable in a nation of huge resources. While Thailand takes the prize as the least miserable country in the world, according to the 2018 Steve Hanke’s Annual Misery Index, Nigeria was the sixth miserable country behind Turkey, Brazil, Iran and Venezuela. In the 2018 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria was reported to be suffering from a severe level of hunger as the country ranks 103 out of 119 qualifying countries. There is a rise in the number of Nigerian children who are on the streets hawking. The International Labour Organization estimates that about 14 million children between the ages of five and 14 are involved in one form of economic activity or the other on the streets.
Due to increase in the number of political thugs, armed robbers, kidnappers, fraudsters within the country, this writer feels that local, state and federal governments must pay more attention to street children. Why? It is on the streets these children imbibe the “street culture” of killing, maiming, gang raping, glue sniffing, and stealing among other heinous crimes. The street is the production arena of children who are involved in crimes and criminality in the country. If effective approaches by governments and NGOs are not adopted to address the needs of these children, they will grow up becoming “professional” criminals later in life.
In order to feel the pulse of Nigerians on ways of taking these children off the streets, this writer sent a message on his twitter account on 2 April, 2019, as follows: “Compulsory education for all children up to secondary level in all 36 states. This will take the children out of the streets. Education is very basic to all other things. So can we have national and state assemblies legislate that all children should be in school for 12 years?” By 4 April 2019, there are 13,906 impressions and 227 engagements on tweeter. A few comments that will fit into the space provided in this column have been selected. Please read on:
Juliet Kego: “Sir, the challenge is actually in implementation. Child Rights Act (CRA) already makes provision for a lot of these but about 12 states are yet to domesticate it and those who have, do not necessarily implement. A lot of schools are dilapidated. Teachers unpaid/owed/poorly trained.”
OrukAnam: “I think the last sentence captures the real problem. A lot of schools are not of acceptable standard. There are cultural and economic angles but we have to get the schools
working first- otherwise insisting children are in school is an empty exercise.”`
Zeala: “Even the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act legislates it……..like you said, implementation is the issue.”
Lady Sotaria: “With all due respect, the school standard at the moment is appalling, it will take a swift dip if this is implemented.”
Fribone: “Not just compulsory education sir, but one of good standard. The current situation is dead and can’t be resuscitated. We need to plan for the future like the Japanese and UAE are doing, our kids deserve more than we give them.”
TayoAro: “NASS members don’t care, their children are not in public schools.”
Citizen Olufemi: “This should be the goal of the educational sector. Oil is not our power in Nigeria, it is the 200 million Nigerians. Educate the citizens and Nigeria would be great. Education is light and freedom from the shackles of ignorance. Education is the solution to terrorism and bloodshed….”
“…..Solution to terrorism: Educated people are hard to be indoctrinated and brainwashed. Boko Haram won’t be able to recruit new people if they are educated. Education is the solution to political thuggery. How many graduates have you found among political thugs…?”
“Solution to bloodshed: Herdsmen-farmer clashes are as a result of ignorance and outdatedness. If they are empowered with the knowledge of how cattle are reared in the 21st Century, there would be no clashes. Adult vocational education is needed. Ordinary agric science can solve this.”
Oki Sam: “This will be a serious threat to the feudal system of the core North and so would not be applicable nationwide! The Northern cultural establishment is averse to such ingenious modules….particularly on mass education that will eliminate the almajiris, used only for voting!”
Dr Magpi: “This is the foundation of all things good in the future of any nation.”
Disciples Atiku: “Great, education is the bedrock of development but if we are all educated, who will be the political thug? Who will do the dirty political jobs? Who will be the spoilers? That is the reality. If we are serious about education, every one of us will be involved.”
Gnavasuko: “Compulsory education with the inclusion of being free……”
- To be continued