OP-UNEDITED | Agony of the Street Children – By Opeyemi Olajide Olowookere
By Opeyemi Olajide Olowookere
In many cities of the world, especially the developing countries, street children have been subject of abuse, neglect, exploitation and even in extreme cases murdered by “clean up squads” hired by local businesses. These children, expected leaders of tomorrow, experience various obnoxious and unbearable frustrations which in most cases made them to end up in the street thereby being labeled as street children.
The street children become victims of circumstances created by the environment; sometimes emanating from parents with lackadaisical attitudes to the well being of their children. By extension, they are on the streets because of poor parental upbringing, mistreatment, neglect and lack of basic necessities of life. As a result, they found ready homes in unoccupied dwellings, uncompleted buildings, under the bridges and wastelands. Some of them are not necessarily homeless or without families, but they live in situations where there is no protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults.
Besides the nation’s economic situation, the street children have chosen to make the street as their resort for other reasons. Unfortunately, some of us have no choice – they are abandoned, orphaned, or thrown out of their homes. Disappointedly though, some of the street children also work in the streets because their earnings are needed by their families, in fact this particular case is becoming very rampart as it were.
Below are the agony experience by the street children:
Means of survival (occupation:)
As street children, their survival were found to be quite atypical. Majority of them used to do non-domestic works for living. Considerable numbers of them were found to be involved in different marginal occupations (e.g. begging, street vending, remnants and edibles picking from dustbins, prostitution etc.)
Low income, hazardous working conditions mostly saturated with physical and mental torture and abuse by employers and seniors and severe job insecurity. However, no place to keep cash and very often being robbed by senior street children. This is terrible!
Lack of access to basic amenities:
Most of the days, the street children had insufficient food intake. Uncertainty in accessing daily food sometimes forced them to stay without food by fasting and skipping meals. No specific and secured place of residence and/or lack of shelter had forced a lot of them to sleep in the open places like the pavements of roads, uncompleted buildings, houses etc. Use open public places for defecating, squatting, difficulties in bathing, and washing clothes and drying them. Moreover, no safe places to keep our valued goods like cloths, gunny bags etc.
Lack of capabilities:
Hard working for a mere livelihood had triggered many of the street children with no opportunity and time to get basic education and skill development activities to draw a good job. Although most of them wished to overcome this endangered street livelihood related penuries, but they lack adequate will-power and confidence to do so. To keep the wolf of hunger away from their stomach, many of the street children were obliged to embrace hazardous jobs.
Powerlessness (disempowerment, social exclusion, discrimination, injustice, abuse):
They are being bullied by unscrupulous people, troubled by musclemen, police and child lifters, robbed by elders who used to snatch money, forced to do menial and dirty jobs/acts by devious persons and looked down upon by society. Many of them were forced to do difficult type of work at a very low wages, and even enduring exploitation and violence by employers. Ill treatment by police and adult members of the society, unscrupulous persons, and parents/step-parents/guardians is unbearable. Molestation of the street girls by hoodlums. Unfortunately, they found none to pay heed to their voices.
Poor health and vulnerability:
Weak health due to hard work, diseases and malnutrition were common health problems of the street children. Inability to access medical treatment was acute among the sick ones. Almost all of them had to face frustration of hard working street life.
Lack of protection and security (physical, economic and emotional):
Absence of parents/family members, no near and dear ones, no affection and loved ones were great emotional threats of the street children. They have a continuous feeling of being scared and insecurity due to endangered street living without guardians or protection from hoodlums and miscreants, mostly temporary and hazardous working condition with low wages etc.
Lack of recreation:
Lack of playing time due to tiresome long hours of work for mere subsistence was a common situation amongst us. However, They lack the idea of a sound and healthy recreation and therefore, indulge in wicked thoughts and activities.
Lack of social ties and networks:
Since most of the street children were found instable to stay specifically in a specific place for a longer period, They actually lack proper social ties with others. Since the mainstream society, in most cases, hates the street children due to their dirt living on the street, they lack social relation with them. Moreover, they did not have any union/group to uphold their needs and rights.
Insufficient institutional support:
The institutional supports were insufficient to ameliorate the predicaments of the street children.
In conclusion, the present menace of different categories of disadvantaged, abandoned, vulnerable, destitute street living, working and playing children in the cities has posed an intense threat to humanity and child’s rights. The livelihood trajectories of the street children entangled with terrific and aggregated predicaments and problems is nothing but the presentation of our endangered and chaotic livelihood that requires a very careful attention.
The fact that the uncertainty and risks associated with search for basic amenities like food, drinking water, shelter, bathing, squatting (use of toilet) etc. impose fear of multi-dimensional sufferings and pain (e.g., hunger, insecurity etc). Therefore, they have to recourse to jobs for securing survival. Although many of those jobs like remnant collection, street vending, wage labour, etc., some others are viewed non-conforming with norms and values of the society. Drug dealing, theft, drug abuse, prostitution, begging etc. are examples of such non-confirming jobs. Those conforming and non-conforming jobs either both or alone determine the modes of survival of the street children.
On the other hand, street children have to face multifarious problems spawned by economic deficiency, lack of social and family protection, illiteracy, powerlessness, deprivation, social exclusion, physical and mental harassment etc. Being atypical with the mainstream children of the society, the lifestyle of the street children in terms of their food habit, night shelter/ sleeping place at night, sources of water (drinking, bathing and others), frequency of taking shower, use of toilet, clothing, means of survival (occupation), income, expenditure and savings, healthcare, diseases and treatment, educational status and skill, ownership, recreational activities, social bondage, as revealed above, is symptomatic to continuous challenges, threats and struggles. Therefore, as evident above, the lifestyle pattern of the street children is devoid of normal standards. The absence of normal living becoming chaotic and problematic offers street children an endangered lifestyle, which is entangled and concentrated with innumerable predicaments and stress. What a life!
Experience has shown that these minors, later in life become ready tools employed by unscrupulous elements in the society to carry out their nefarious activities.
Unfortunately, a greater percentage of them become so irredeemable to the point that they grow up in like manner without any proper orientation either from parents/guardian or the society. The consequence of that lack of care make most of the street children to end up under the bridges, live in dark alley and take over a number of public places where they operate illicit businesses and thus, constituting environmental nuisances and environmental dangers.
The Street Children phenomenon in Nigeria is gradually assuming alarming proportions, particularly in urban areas. The immediate cause of this challenge appears to be deeply entrenched in poverty which defines lives of the vast majority of the Nigerian people. Invariably, broken homes and families who find it difficult to provide the basic needs equally end up at some point on the streets and the phenomenon very much alarming resulting to: child labour, child trafficking, child prostitution and a host of others. By extension, won’t it be rather interesting to realize that with the recent saga on the baby factory on the increase where girls who have unwanted pregnancy are nurtured, cared and looked after till the time of delivery and are paid off for the babies delivered are some of the extraneous situation that the challenge of the street children birth. You can bet where the babies delivered and paid for by some business people will end up. Sometimes, when you consider the sordidness of these stories, they sound very absurd and very incredulous. But the truth is that they are very real. And they are not farfetched but dwell within us.
Sympathetically, street children throughout the world are subjected to physical abuse sometimes even by the law enforcement agencies, and murdered outright by other gangs, as societies treat them as a blight to be eradicated rather than young souls to be nurtured and protected. Flimsy excuses are occasionally cited for frequent and arbitrary detention by police like homelessness, loitering, vagrancy, or petty theft. More worrisome is the incessant attacks on innocent street-girls who are sometimes sexually abused. Street children also make up a large proportion of the children who enter criminal justice systems and are committed finally to correctional institutions (prisons) that are euphemistically called schools, often without due process.
It is necessary that governments at all levels (Federal, State and Local), including non-governmental organizations, should collectively be involved in rescuing, rehabilitating and resettling the Street Children. Their menace requires national and international public attention because they are part of us and deserve all attention and concern to address their needs.
The government has a lot to do to address the problems which are largely social, economical, and health-wise. In fact, the menace can be reduced through strategies towards reduction of poverty, public orientation, preventive health programmes, and other social services.
I will like to commend Consortium for Street Children for their effort to make the world a better place for street children. April 12, 2011 International day for street children was launched by Consortium for street children. International Day for Street Children is an important opportunity to raise awareness for the plight of these children around the globe, and it is time we give our support. Street children have been discriminated for too long, and we have an opportunity to change this if we can only listen to them and those working with them, and adopt integrated approaches to tackle their needs and to share good practice. I also want to use this medium to appeal to United Nation if they can release their guidance.
I believe strongly in the power of advocacy which can be further strengthened in collaboration with institutions in the society to play participatory roles towards the success of the campaigns against the street-children.
Inspired by Steve Biko’s ‘I Write What I Like‘, OP-UNEDITED is the citizen opinion segment of SIGNAL. All opinions posted on the OP-UNEDITED page are unedited and the raw opinions of the writers.
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