So…I came across this article published on Daily Trust titled “The fate of Almajirai in Nigeria”. It talked about the Almajiri system of education in Nigeria and how it needed to be overhauled; as the system makes children vulnerable in ways that are detrimental to their future.
They suggested that the children end up being used as slaves and beggars; while some of them are even molested and abused in unimaginable ways.
In case you were wondering; the Almajiri system of education is one where parents send their children to a spiritual leader; who has no means of livelihood; to teach them the religion of Islam. I found it quite interesting. I have often wondered how and why there were quite a number of children on the streets of Lagos; begging to survive.
In fact, I have had quite a number of experiences with these children beggars. They run after you, tugging at your clothing, asking for handouts or financial assistance. Usually their guardians sit not too far keeping a watchful eye while they go about begging. It is hard to ignore these children.
Indeed, their chants have a way of appealing to almost all kinds of people. I would normally give them food or clothing rather than cash; as I believe they benefit better from those than cash – which apparently are taken away by their guardians.
I find it hard to believe that more than 50% of the children on the streets of Lagos; are victims of this Almajiri system. Some of these children are just destitute born by poor parents who; because of their living situation, fail to properly take care of the children; a vicious circle where some children spend their days with their parents who direct them in the streets.
Another group also include children that beg on their own. The streets are their homes and what they know best. They don’t complain because they don’t know better and because there’s no one to complain to.
What future do these child beggars have? How will their future unfold as they grow up? They have no clue on where to go to for help. Most of the young girls eventually suffer sexual abuses in exchange for security; some income or affection…and probably end up as sex workers; while the young boys often turn to violence; using force as a means of intimidation to earn some living or becoming “Agberos”.
It all seems really unfair; especially since I know it will not take much from the Lagos Government to help these children.
Expecting the average Lagosians on the streets to help will be a long wait. As a matter of fact, they tend to hesitate before helping these children. Many believe some of them are witches, so they bring bad luck. Others understand that giving to them endangers their lives in many forms. Also, it makes getting them off the streets extra difficult.
The government needs to take certain measures to ameliorate the situation. These include creating a scheme that not only provide helplines to these children; but also informs them about the existence of child helplines; making them aware of the welcoming support they can always turn to anonymously.
Another suggestion is increasing the number of orphanages or safe houses.
I am yet to see a shelter or safe house for homeless people anywhere in Lagos. Providing such spaces, where these children can find shelter and learn about the different skills they possess; can help them develop and becoming better citizens in future.
Even more, we need a more active social service from the government. To the best of my knowledge, social services are nonexistent in Lagos. I suppose it is assumed that the community will act together to take care of the poor and vulnerable.
Indeed, the city needs a comprehensive social grant system; as well as the emergence of professional and specialized organizations geared specifically geared towards addressing the problem of children begging on our streets.