Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Nigeria: Letting Our Children Live Like Dogs


Touching the untouchable
This is probably one of the most difficult issues to raise in Nigeria but one that requires objective and intellectual engagement more than anything else.
The systems that we have adopted that are inimical to progress and development and a good deal of them need to be abrogated, probably proscribed, in some cases strictly regulated and brought under the purview of the civil authorities so as to eliminate the bias and the sentiment that tolerates abuse.
The Time magazine published an article last weekend about Nigeria [1] and what jumped out at me was the Tweet posted that was used to bring footfall to the story.
I wept
 “Sometimes they fight dogs for food.”
I guessed things were bad in Nigeria with the poverty, health and security situations but not this bad that children will be jostling with dogs for food with the risk of getting bitten and all the attendant issues that might follow like contracting rabies and much else.
There are serious humanitarian and child welfare issues that need to be addressed with urgency, if only those who matter can allow themselves to be moved with compassion above all else.
In the wrong place
The first paragraph alone presents a setting that is almost primitive and it is mediaeval; beyond the religious accoutrements on the walls is the sad story of a very ill boy of 15 with his younger brother nursing him, if there was anything he could do in the situation apart from providing comfort by his presence.
A child in the 21st Century ill with malaria and typhoid fever should be in hospital being tended by modern medicine with the hope for recovery. The story is he had not eaten since the night before and the only hope for food was from leftovers in a neighbouring house.
The unwritten part of this travesty is if the sick were going hungry, there is no telling what will be the case of the nominally healthy and if the many were going hungry you can imagine after scrapping with dogs with the scratching and bites it will take the unusual milk of human kindness for that food to be given to the weak.
Where is our heart for the children?
The plight of children in Nigeria is a serious one and we need to put away many of the preconceived notions build on long held views to deal with what is both shameful and disgraceful – no creed or doctrine can be seen to condone or tolerate this, talk less of revel in this unconscionable evil masquerading as schooling for some higher purpose.
There should be no reason for children with living parents to live the existence of those deprived of love, of care, of consideration and the basic elements of food, health, good education and access to opportunity that many others take for granted.
It is incumbent on the elite and the intellectuals of communities where these activities thrive to excoriate the system in totality, condemning the perpetrators and offering progressive steps to child welfare should take priority along with adequate resources to redress the situation.
An unsure future
The more one reads into the article, it is evident that this is an emergency. Children hundreds of miles from their homes in squalid surroundings and unregulated institutions that portend to offer the kids a future though none of which is evident from the training or the activities they are forced to indulge in to keep body and soul together.
Begging in the streets, no matter how palatable the promoters try to make it is a low esteem complex that reaffirms a state of destitution, a lack of opportunity and a pliable mob that could be conscripted into nefarious activities of unscrupulous lords.
Besides, these people, children and by all standards citizens of Nigeria for the failings of their families, their communities and their governments are easy prey for all sorts of abuse from the basic withdrawal of support through physical abuse and the absence of essential care to sexual abuse and possibly murder which can happen with impunity; they all need to have their rights championed and asserted by all well-meaning people throughout Nigeria and beyond.
We need to talk
For a country so great and resourceful, it is a shame and disgrace that our children live in these conditions from day to day and there is no telling how many more in the name of evidently bad traditions have lost their minds and lives to untold destitution and the indifference that has made this evil an untouchable minefield.
It is time to talk about these matters, some practices need to be outlawed, others proscribed, some institutions need to be regulated by unbiased secular authorities, there is no doubt that some sacred cows will need to be butchered without mercy and the conditions in these environments must be raised to meet standards of boarding schools that provide proper meals, a strict curriculum, vocational training and proper inspection regimes.
Children should not be on the streets begging and proprietors should be held responsible for ensuring that when their wards are externally graded, they are within the aptitude and abilities of their peers in other public institutions.
We have deferred too long to systems that offer no functional development in our communities, regardless of our persuasions, service still matters and there is dignity in labour but that requires we train up children to be productive members of their communities at first and hopefully to the nation at large.  
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