Now that the annual Children’s Day celebration has come and gone, the question of what happens to the average Nigerian child after that one day jamboree still lingers in the hearts of concerned parents and education stakeholders.
As a matter of fact, it appears the Nigerian child is only celebrated once a year, May 27. Even the so-called annual ritual celebration organized by each state of the federation doesn’t really go round as it parades and favours mostly children of the high and mighty. But to children of the masses, May 27 is just like any other day.
And a normal day for an average Nigerian child pictures him already turned into an adult before his time. He not only has to worry about attending a school that lacks almost all necessary amenities , but also has to hawk on the streets and do other menial jobs to assist his family. And while hawking and roaming the streets, some fall prey to the antics of social miscreants.
Meanwhile as a sovereign country, the Nigerian child is supposedly protected by rights which ought to ensure his basic needs are met. But on the contrary, these laws hardly cater for every child’s education, feeding, shelter, protection and so on.
What about the classrooms where learning takes place? Although some public schools have had touch ups,others remain in a sorry state.
When a visit was made to the likes of Shokunbi and Mushin Mission Primary Schools,Mushin, it was appalling to discover the conditions in which they operate. With faded coloured buildings, wooden windows and caved in roofs,sources hinted that the schools’ management have written severally to the government to come to their aid – all to no avail.
Aside the leaky roofs which allow water into the classroom now that it has started raining, it was also learnt that pupils of the schools fetch water in buckets from home to school everyday. When asked what the water was meant for, sources revealed that pupils use it in their almost non-existent toilet.
But in a move to speak with the headmistress(es) of the schools who share same compound concerning the deplorable situation of the schools, she refused further comments, but said they had been instructed to direct anyone who needed information to the secretary of the Local Government.
If we don’t hustle for money, we don’t eat—Musa
Ten-year-old Musa is one of those Nigerian children born into life’s harsh realities. Having left his parents who reside in Kaduna at a tender age,he begins to cater for himself. Accompanied by his 15 year-old elder brother,Ahmed who actually brought him down to Lagos, they join forces as shoe repairers near a pedestrian walkway in Mushin area of Lagos. From their garage abode,they resume work as early as seven in the morning to hustle for at least N100 for breakfast. What about lunch and dinner? “Only Allah can determine that by sending us customers. If we don’t hustle for money, we don’t eat, “ said Musa in a rather sad mood.
I fend for my family— Biodun
Biodun, 11, also has his share of hardship to contend with. His wish is to become a medical doctor but for the untold hardship, he keeps wondering how his dream will come true. Obviously tired as a result of hawking sachets of water which had already lost its chilly nature, he sits on the floor under the scorching sun, probably whiling away time before going home. Refusing to look into the camera, he narrates how he has to fend for his parents who are without jobs. “My name is Biodun. I’m nine years old.
I school at Ajegunle and I’m in primary five. I don’t go to school every day because I have to hawk pure water for my parents. My mother is at home because she doesn’t work, but I don’t know what my father does for a living. I like it whenever I see medical doctors in their uniforms saving lives. But how do I become one of them when my parents can hardly provide three square meals?”
My daughter was a victim of sexual abuse—Mrs. Okafor
According to Mrs Okafor, a parent and entrepreneur, her daughter was a victim of sexual molestation. Because of the nature of her work, she seldom spends enough time with her child. She would leave her in the care of a neighbor whose brother was so sex-driven and experimented on her daughter.
“Mothers should never turn a blind eye to their children’s predicament, especially their daughters because it’s their responsibility to monitor what revolves around them,” she advised, adding that most parents like herself are to be absolved for the hapless conditions children face. She advised that parents should always provide enough basic needs for their children so they don’t indulge in the act of stealing or begging from others.
Abused children are products of poverty—Mrs. Chinwe
To Mrs.Chinwe Madu, some of the abused children are products of poverty as no normal woman will like to see her child suffer. In her words, “there is no way a woman will suffer for 9 months, give birth only to subject the child to suffering. It is not done’’. But in this case, the children need to help their parents to take care of some of the family needs though it is not their civil responsibility to do to.
But as a child, it would be unfair for you to sit and watch your parents suffer so much when you know you can be of help to them. I think this is one of the reasons why there is a higher rate of child abuse now in the country, especially in big cities like Lagos and Ibadan”, she said.
Chinwe then narrated an ugly experience she finds difficult to forget. The sad incident happened where she resided here in Lagos. To her, if Bose(deceased) had the premonition that leaving her aged mother back in Togo to live with her divorced aunt here in Lagos, Nigeria would bring her shame, she would have stayed behind. Bose, 12, left her widowed mother back in Togo for Lagos to acquire a sound education
. But instead of being enrolled in school, she was forced to take up the role of breadwinner which subjected her to several abuses. She woke up every day by 5 am, went out to hustle and returned in the evening to provide for her aunt and three children. But whenever there was nothing she could do to raise money for their daily meals, she involved herself in prostitution.
Not only that, she was used by her aunt to satisfy her sex starved customers who would pay between N50 and N100 after touching and fondling her body. And refusal to yield to her aunt’s instruction earned her some strokes of the cane and sometimes food denials.But when she eventually got pregnant to Saidu, 14, she was bundled back to her mother in Togo. Saidu happens to be another product of child abuse.