"When we work to better protect our children, we inch closer toward the day when we will truly celebrate ‘Day of the African Child’.”
Today is June 16th and we are celebrating; DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD. But does the occasion actually call for celebration?
We at 29th Media don’t think so, rather we feel it calls for mourning. You may wonder why we think so? The reason is not farfetched; we need to pay better attention to Child issues, for instance; the Street Child. Who is the Street Child?
A Street Child is any human being below the age of 18 years living in the Streets. There are Children who are born and brought up in the Streets and those who left their homes (rural, urban or peril-urban) to live in the Streets.
250,000 to 300,000 of Nigerian Child are categorised as Street Children and forced to find their basic needs on the Streets. This prompted us to create a Social Support Cause – STREET CHILDREN CAMPAIGN ORG.
Street Children Campaign Organisation once had an encounter with a number of Street Children at a dump site in Ojota New Garage. Most of these Children looked like they had not bathed for a very long time and were carrying sacks in which they collected metals, plastics and bottles for sale. The Street Children were mostly eager to talk about their situation and friendly, especially when offered some money. They mostly left home because of poverty. Most of the young ones want to go back to school while the older ones want to learn a vocation e.g. to be mechanics or drivers. Some have their entire families – brothers and sisters – on the streets who also beg for money. They said the herm helps them cope with their situation. There were others who have homes but come to the city in the morning to beg and take money home in the evening.
Street Children Campaign Org. is deeply concerned with the number of Children on the Streets as they keep increasing steadily and the future of our country continue to suffer. They lack basic needs, have health problems, are exposed to illicit drugs, as well as to communicable and sexually transmitted diseases. Street Children are often involved in road accidents and victimized by thugs, the police and members of the public. Some of the Children complain of mistreatment and abuse at government rehabilitation centers. In addition, these Children lack due process in the courts as they are often unrepresented in legal proceedings. They are also vulnerable to exploitation. For example, young girls are often used as prostitutes, while the boys are usually as pawns (e.g. thugs and touts) in the quest by unscrupulous aspirants to fulfill political ambitions.
These and many other reasons form the basis why Street Children Campaign Organisation mourns the Nigerian Child instead of celebrating.
Our aim is to ensure enforcement of the Children’s Act 2008. Our group will be involved in Child Welfare for more proactive Child advocacy that would include initiating screening programmes for Street Children and training programmes for the Children and population at large. Such initiatives must involve Child participation, and should work toward family reunification. The focus should be on the rural and peril-urban areas where most Children originate.
It’s a commitment mission of getting Children off the Streets and protecting their human rights. We wish to see our Children in schools and not on the streets.
A key recommendation is for the government, through the National Assembly, to fund and coordinate Child Welfare programs by ensuring an appropriate distribution of the Constituency Developmental Fund and other government funding to qualified Child Welfare programs. The government should also enact reporting requirements to ensure organisations involved in Child Welfare accurately report any non-government funding.
The project is proposing to work in hand with government Child resource and referral centres to promote the rights and interests of Children in Nigeria and to work closely with the government toward implementing the recommendations made therein.
There are children in (who live in the streets) and on (who go back home for the night) the streets.
The current number of actual Street Children and Youth in Lagos State for example is approximately 8000 (eight thousand): about 5000 are between the ages of 16 - 25years and about 3000 are between the ages of 6-15years. Of the Street Children approximately 4000 are only found during daytime.
Some of these Children even go to school in the morning.
Some of these Children even go to school in the morning.
Members of the public should be discouraged from giving money, food, and other handouts to Street Children. Instead, organizations in this field should explore the most effective way of providing these givers with alternatives and this is part reason why we will be having Campaigns, while at the same time exploiting the desire to give, so that the total amount available for Street Children and those at risk of going to the streets is increased.
The current situation is that most organizations offering services to Street Children or children and youth at risk do not have policies, or if they have them, they only developed them when they absolutely had to. This is presumably because there is considerable fear instilled among organizations by the very word `policy’ itself.
Policy simply means thinking about problems in advance, and how the organization will want to handle them rather than thinking under pressure to decide or act quickly. So there is no need to be terrified about ‘policy’.
The government’s presence, active involvement, and indeed leadership in the whole area of Street Children work is presently seen and felt. This is to say that the Government should be encouraged to do even much better.
Communities need to be educated as to why this common interest and strong stand are important.
Street Children Campaign Org will wish to work with Government owned Children Centres and the stakeholders identified to realize the common goal of getting Children off the Streets and protecting their human rights.
29th Media is very enthusiastic about organising a seminar on Street Children in Lagos State.
Street Children Campaign Organisation will be speaking to police officers on their views and opinions on Street Children with a visit to their headquarters to obtain police guidelines or training procedures on handling children.
We once met with some police officers who denied ever mistreating Street Children but agreed they’ve not heard of training to handle Children beyond commonsense and that the determination of whether one is a Child is based on appearances. A police officer attached with Lion Building, however, agreed that (security guards) have insufficient or no training to handle Children or any “common man” as the police even mistreat the disabled.
In the light of all the above, 29th Media decided to take the initiative in the noble quest to genuinely inaugurate and celebrate the Day of the African Child.