When I was a child living in Lagos, Nigeria, I would sometimes see children begging. As a naive child, I would always plead with my mother to adopt them so that they would be able to go to school, be clean and not have to beg. I incorrectly assumed that these children, who I was told were from the northern part of the country, were parentless, but I soon came to realize that the money these children received was taken to a parent who usually watched from not to far away. Despite this, it came as a shocking surprise to learn that Nigeria, and specifically, the northern part of the country, is home to approximately 10 million child beggars. The child I used to be would want to adopt all these children but the adult I am today knows that this issue goes far beyond adoption and requires serious strategic planning to address the problem.
During a popular Hausa radio show, Nigeria's Minister of State for Education, Aishatu Jibrin Dukku, shared the highly depressing news, saying,
"We are yet to finish our compilation, but at the moment we have over ten million child beggars roaming our streets, and that's a conservative estimate."She continued,
"It is very alarming that parents are becoming so insensitive to the welfare of their children that they dispatch them to unknown places to take care of themselves...Whether The Minister's assessment of the fates of these child beggars is correct or not, what is clear is that it is unacceptable for children to have to beg for their keep. They did not ask to be brought into the world, but now that they are here, it is the collective job of all to cater for those in need.
"They just send them away without making any arrangement for their feeding, medical care, shelter and other necessities... Most of these children, because of the harsh realities they found themselves in, end up becoming juvenile delinquents and, subsequently, adult criminals."
Apparently, the current administration has plans to get many of these children in schools so that they can get an education of some sort. I cannot help but wonder what prior administrations, Ministers of Education, and other responsible parties did. Actually, assuming that the numbers announced by Dukku are relatively accurate, it is clear that those previously responsible did absolutely nothing, unfortunately.
Regardless, steps must definitely be taken to create educational opportunities for these youngsters. Especially as Nigerians were recently informed that 23mn of the nation's youths are unemployable. That information, coupled with this latest revelation puts in serious doubt the ability of Nigeria's young to compete in the global economy - a necessity for any nation to survive. Private individuals and groups will also need to step in to help fill the educational gap these children face and the catching up that needs to be done. Hopefully, that will be the case because 10mn uneducated Nigerian children, regardless of what part of the country they hail from, puts the entire nation at a global disadvantage.
From The Archives:
- 23mn Of Nigeria's Youth Are Unemployable