Nigeria: Fragments – Who Are Street Kids in Nigeria?
Daily Trust (Abuja)
January 19, 2007
Safiya I. Dantiye
I have read a lot on children that that have no parents and are not in anybody’s care, like the orphanage in some African countries. In other words these children sleep and live in the streets, so they are called street kids. But I find it hard to connect the problem with Nigeria, and especially my State, which is Kano, until a year ago when I entered a public transport to travel to Kano and a co passenger who was going there for the first time asked some questions about Kano and revealed that he was working with an NGO and that his mission was to go and contact some people about building a house, school and other facilities for the street kids of Kano.And the school of course is boarding school.
I told him I didn’t know about street kids in Kano, despite it being my state. Then he mentioned the almajirai!
I explained to him that as far as I was concerned the almarai were not street kids since their parents entrusted them to the Mallams to learn the Qur’an, and that they sleep in their schools or in the halls of the neighboring houses. In essence their parents know where they are and some give them money and some essential items to take to school.
Then another co passenger talked about street kids in Lagos that sleep under the bridge and the person that wanted to ‘rescue’ street kids in Kano said he thought the almajirai were also like that.
Anyway, it is really about the street kids in Lagos that I want to talk about. During Christmas some street kids were interviewed on television about in Lagos on how to spend Christmas. A cheeky boy of about 11 years old cheerfully said." I don’t have a father and a mother, so I will not celebrate Christmas."
The boy’s behaviour made me doubt the authenticity of his claim of being an orphan. If he were, I don’t think he would be so happy in saying it, as if it doesn’t really matter whether he has parents or not, which is abnormal. Orphans are melancholy and depressed, even when the pain of the initial loss had subsided, any time the orphan talks about his/her pathetic condition he/she will say it in a lamentable way, may be with a tear- filled eyes.
If the boy is indeed an orphan, I don’t think he could not have anybody to take care of him among his mother’s and father’s relatives, so maybe such children, majority of which I suspect to be boys, just run away from their homes and go to the cities. In cities such as Lagos, they sleep under the bridge and scavenge to live. From there some will graduate into taking drugs and become thieves, while their parents might have looked for them for years and even gave up hope, thinking that they are dead, since they will assume that they were abducted or ‘stolen’ in the first place.
Thereafter the issue of so called ‘parentless’ children roaming towns with nobody in the world to take care of them should be looked at critically, some may just prepare to become rascals and live in the streets. Then if an opportunity presents itself they will say they are orphans with nobody to look after them.
This also indicates the nonchalant attitude of the authorities towards the well being of the citizens. A government that is concerned should gather those children, try to find their parents, and if not found, they should be put under the custody of the government. Or do whatever it can to prevent the children from roaming the streets where they will learn all sorts of vices that they will unleash on the society when they grow up.