Enugu: The street children of coal city
Enugu: The street children of coal city
By Emmanuel Onwubiko

If there is ever any way of reading the pulse of the nation and determine the happiness or otherwise of the greatest percentage of the citizenry, then the streets are the most accurate barometer.

The believers in the Utilitarian theory will say that a society is happy and prosperous when the greatest happiness of the greatest number of Citizens in a given society has been seamlessly attained.

So from the streets you can tell how a given society is organised and how the governance Standards are engineered and effectively implemented.

I’m a firm believer in the sociology of poverty of the streets that is engineered and choreographed by the unequal redistribution of resources and the wealth of nation.

Take for example the issue of the public Universities that went on strike for a year and the Federal Government and the members of the academic union do not care whatever happens to the educational wellbeing of the students. The government officials beginning from the local levels up until the central government, all have their kids abroad in some of the best schools.  President Muhammadu Buhari has trained all his children in different universities in the United Kingdom and the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo has also done the same. Children of all the governors are either in Europe, Canada or the USA schooling at public costs but the children of the poor who are in public Universities that are grossly ill equipped have stayed home for a year because the teachers and the government are arguing over whether the teachers should be paid through a centralised data system but the teachers rejected such arrangements.

They are also quarrying over wages and salaries. They are not bothered that science labs in these Universities are empty. They do not care if the computer faculties do not have computers and they are not concerned with the falling standards of study and living hostels of these children of the masses. By the way, there are over 100 million absolutely poor Nigerians and the chasm between the rich and the poor widens criminally rapidly by the day. Take another example of health tourism by government officials who have stolen all the money meant to build public healthcare Center’s for the masses but these politicians travel abroad to take care of their own health challenges thereby allowing hundreds of thousands of poor Nigerians to die from diseases that are ordinarily treatable. Such is what I call the effect of criminal failure to equitably redistribute the wealth of the nation amongst the populations. The lack of equity is the reason for the high numbers of street children in the South East as well as other parts of the Country.

An abstract from a research work published in the INTERNATIONAL journal of current research by Dr. Shoiab Ahmad Bhat, Dr. MD. Arshad and Mudasir Quadir says the following about the phenomenon of street children: “A street child is any girl or boy for whom the street has become his or her habitual abode or a source of livelihood, and who worked on the street and went home to their families at night. The scenario of street children is considered to be the most important problem facing both developed and developing societies. Street children constitute a snubbed group as they are the product of economic growth, war, poverty, loss of traditional values, domestic violence, physical and mental abuse. Every street child has a reason for being on the streets, and the present study was an endeavour to analyse the reasons or causes of a child on the streets. The research work was an exertion to highlight the socio-economic problems faced by the street children in Jammu and Kashmir with special reference to Srinagar district. Street children are the most perceptible fragment of our society, deprived with vital services like education and health care, and the most difficult to protect. They become the victim of all forms of exploitation and abuse, and their daily lives are likely to be very different from the idyllic childhood. The findings of the study divulge that there are many reasons for children to decide to leave their homes: poverty, disagreement at home, disintegration in family, unable to pay school fee and to find jobs.”

The scientific research aforementioned is replicated in the streets of Enugu as well as Owerri and Aba whereby hundreds of thousands of children, too young to even be allowed out of an organised home but these less privileged children of Igbo extraction are all over the streets of these major city centres I have just mentioned. That of Enugu which is the former regional capital of the South East of Nigeria is pathetic going by the tender ages of the Children you would normally see on the streets roaming around the bust motor ways at the risks of being knocked down by rough drivers and these Children are obviously sexually abused, exploited, and physically and mentally harassed, intimidated and violated by all kinds of depraved adults. I’m particularly shocked to find out that Igbo children are being allowed by their Parents and the society to fend for themselves on the streets as if the South East of Nigeria has return to the state of nature which according to the British Philosopher Thomas Hobbes is brutish, uninteresting, callous, and short. The social factors mentioned by those researchers above are indeed the correct sociological causes of the menace of street children in Igbo speaking states. This is a clear sign that the society is broken down and the cultural and traditional values the people usually hold so dear such as the cultural values of hard work and social solidarity of looking out for each other, the values of hospitality, charity and other family values that the Igbo cosmology promotes, have been allowed to melt away and give way to consumerism, pursuit for cash by all means, the winner takes all tendencies, the survival of the fittest, the might is right tendency and there is a speedy decline for the spirit of entrepreneurship and importantly the traditional value system of being our brother’s keeper or the virtue of ONYE AGHANA NWANNEYA( let nobody forget his brother).

I see danger lurking in our eyes in the South East of Nigeria if this social menace that threatens the core values of the Igbo society is not confronted and dealt with as much as possible using all institutional, cultural, social, religious and all kinds of constructive interventions, then in no distant time, these children we are watching as they languish in poverty of the streets whilst we take care of our own Children will come back to haunt us because if the poor are hungry and can not sleep, the rich will inevitably not sleep because the poor people are awake. I think it is just right that the political class and all stakeholders in the organised civil society community in Nigeria come together to begin to implement solutions to the increasing emergence and presence of large numbers of street children in the major urban centres of South East of Nigeria. The Sociocultural organisations and religious establishments such as the Catholic Church, the Anglican communion and the Pentecostal churches in the South East of Nigeria must wake up and resolve the problem of street Children that is going to pose a big challenge to everyone of us in another two decades if we don’t take these Children off the streets by extending the dividends of democracy in real life to reach them and get them to become economically empowered to such a way that they need not come out on the streets to beg to eat.

The political leadership of the South East of Nigeria are indeed gambling with the security of the South East by not doing anything to take away the social burdens of those children who today live on the streets and who will grow up to become huge social threats to the community that marginalised and neglected them now.

What you see on the streets of the South East of Nigeria validates the research that shows that Nigeria is the worst place on Earth to be born.

The following are the five worst places for a person to be born. Determining studies focused on criteria such as economics, crime rates, and health standards.

On Nigeria which is the worst of the first five worst places to live on Earth, the WRITERS of the report identified as www.borgenproject.orgsays that the country of Nigeria, located in West Africa, is by far the most populated country on the continent of Africa, and is considered the worst country in the world in which to be born. Accordingly, the birth rate in Nigeria is significantly higher than the death rate. (In 2006, the WHO estimated that 42 percent of the population was between the ages of 0-14 and 54 percent was between the ages of 15-65.) Life expectancy is about 47 years old. Nigeria is the only country in Africa to have not completely eradicated polio, as well.

Kenya came second just as the report says that Kenya is a country located in East Africa, and is the second worst place in the world to be born. In 2011, the WHO estimated that a mere 42 percent of births were attended by a qualified health specialist, and that there are approximately 44 deaths per every 1,000 infants born. Life expectancy is at the low number of 55 years. In 2009, the WHO also estimated that 6.3 percent of Kenya’s entire adult population was living with HIV/AIDS. Kenya was followed by Ukraine reported as being an Eastern European country bordering Russia.

This independent territory is the third worst place in the world to be born. In 2008, the UN estimated that the country’s growth rate was only 5 percent, and that if conditions did not improve, the population could fall by 10 million by the year 2025. Ukraine also faces issues such as high death rates, low birth rates, and illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and high blood pressure.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

To be continued

In this article:
Enugu: The street children of coal city
PHOTO: launchgood.com

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