What are you doing to improve the life of street children?- By...

What are you doing to improve the life of street children?- By Mary Alade

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almajirai“Omo ita”, “Osanle”, “Area boys”, “Almagiri”…. these are just some of the various names that children of the street are known by.

Many of us ignore and walk right passed the homeless. In most cases, we don’t even give them a second thought let alone the actual issue of homelessness as a whole. Becoming homeless can happen rather quickly, but it takes longer to enter society, get a job, and find friends and a place to live – things many of us take for granted.

Living on the streets is tough for either a man or a woman. They get kicked, beaten, laughed and jeered at, although, it is so much more difficult for a woman on the streets as she is in a more vulnerable position not only from the public in general, but also from the others on the street. What is important, and we must remember is that homelessness does not only affect adults, but also children too, who are in an even more vulnerable position and are being abused in more ways than one both mentally and physically, same as a cancer full of social inequalities, social and cultural taboos, AIDS, HIV, poverty and more. Homelessness eats into and at our society, and it is a contributory factor against all round development of progress within our nation. After all, does it not affect us all in some form to a degree?

What I would like to know is what exactly are we doing as a nation about the situation of the homeless, especially for the homeless children? – How are we trying to help them get off the streets and into, or perhaps back into school? What are we doing to help rebuild their confidence and trust? What access to training programmes and facilities have we got set up? What shelters have we put in place for them that they can call home? What exactly is being put in place to cleanse our society of the homelessness of children? Just what hope for the future do they have?

Homeless children live outside of the protection, care and love found within a “normal” family environment, instead they live under harsh conditions whilst being victims to all sorts of abuse.

Many did not ask to become homeless in the first instance, but unfortunately due to various circumstances that came about through natural causes that they had no control over, maybe they were orphaned or perhaps they were simply abandoned through deaths, desertion, separation and or divorce associated with unemployment, societal stress, rapid urbanization and industrialization. Some run away from their homes due to domestic violence, another reason could be poverty, or maybe down to peer influence and in some instances it is down to family ties becoming weak and various culture values.

These children, who are as young as five, if perhaps not even younger, are particularly vulnerable to abuses such as child labour, physical and sexual abuse, trafficking, drug abuse and exposure to all sorts of STDs, HIV and AIDS… What we need to realize is that these children live a dangerous life roaming the streets, living rough, hawking, begging, scavenging, stealing, becoming involved in sexual activities, doing and selling drugs and so on. Is it any wonder that there is a high crime wave; people living in perpetual fear of violence, robberies, insecurity and of terrorism etc? Are you really surprised or shocked by such outcomes? You shouldn’t be for it is a reality, as these children are vulnerable victims and targets for such activities. Whose fault is it if we ignore what is happening and allow them to be manipulated by devious minded people for their crafty, scheming plots. They are young, fresh and have impressionable minds that need guidance and educating and in some aspects, it is down to us as a society to work together with the government, politicians, teachers etc and do something about it instead of just procrastinating… what are you doing about it within your community? Are you turning a blind eye and ignoring the severity of the consequences of neglecting these children and doing nothing no matter how little it may seem? … After all, a little can go a long way. We all need to get involved and act on the issues if it is our desire for any improvements to be put in place.

Why are we denying them; Why are we not doing more and finding a way of providing them with what is their human right – an education? Education is a basic fundamental human right for all that no group of people – children and adults alike – should suffer discrimination in access to learning opportunities; it is an important tool for development at a national and individual level and therefore an imperative instrument toward change. Every child has the right to a quality of education that is relevant to his or her individual life and personal development and by ensuring we help provide them with an accessible quality education, we will be taking steps to put in place effective and sustainable services to keep these children off the streets and deal with causes that are aiding the proliferation of this phenomenon they and we face.

There are several factors involved surrounding the issues concerning homeless children. I am not saying this will be a simple task; as it is, many will be affected with some form of mental and physical trauma requiring medical treatment and counselling of some form with ongoing life coaching to help them develop a positive mindset and outlook towards life. The essence here is to build their faith, trust and belief in both themselves and within the society they live in.

All you have to do is take a more observant look around you and you will notice these boys and girls living on the streets, under fly over bridges, next to refuse dumps, around market places, and various slums and not just when they are about begging etc. Think about this for a moment “what if it was you or a member of your family… a son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin…? What would you then do about it? Do these children, even if unrelated to you, not deserve a chance to have a better life? Have you stopped to think that one of them just might be a future leader, as drastic as that may seem and sound, who is to say it’s impossible? Do we not owe it to ourselves as a nation to protect them, and empower them with an education and help secure a more development friendly country? Effective programmes need to be set up and put in place.

Are we being a helping hand toward a journey of stability that they not only want, but need? Or, are we happy for them to remain illiterates. Do we just give up? Try and imagine a world without education, health and justice… difficult? It’s unbelievable right? Unfortunately, it is a reality in the world we live in.

“An uneducated nation of people cannot attain significant developments” 

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