Checking the Menace of Child Beggars

In the traditional African setting, the joy of every parent is the ability to have children who are in turn nurtured to become responsible adults to carry on the name of the family.

The situation is however different today as children born in some families have to fend for themselves and their parents through begging.

Child begging is visible across the country.

For instance, people walking through Mokola, Dugbe, Iwo Road and some areas in Oyo State are often besieged by children as young as two years old, clinging and begging for money. They would not let go until something was dropped.

Same happens to motorists during hold-ups. These children run after vehicles shouting ‘daddy, mummy, ‘fun mi nikan’ or sometimes just indicating that they are hungry by moving their hands from tummy to mouth.

Those who are lucky to get some money, quickly run to street corners to hand over the proceeds to their mothers, sitting close by.

Some other times motorists ignore or practically wind up the glasses to avoid the nuisance.

The question is ‘what becomes of these children whose daily existence depends on begging and what does the future hold for them?

The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria is signatory to identifies the rights of children to include right of association with parents, human identity, right to basic needs such as protection, food, universal basic  education, health care, freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child’s race, gender, disability, colour or ethnicity among others.

It is also stated clearly that children have the right to be cared for by their parents.

This is a long shot considering recent happenings across the country.

Many parents have been driven away from their ancestral homes due to crisis and insurgency and are in internally displaced camps, where they can hardly take care of themselves let alone their young ones.

Those who could not stay in IDP camps have migrated to other parts of the country, considered safe and having nothing else to do, resort to begging with their children.

Apart from constituting a nuisance as well as security threat, begging also expose children to abuse, violence, drug addiction, gangsters, ritualism and untimely death.

Time is now for government at all levels to rise up to this challenge in view of recent reports by the United Nations that Nigeria has the largest number of out of school children.

Hence, schooling at the basic level should be made compulsory for all children while those found roaming during school hours should be arrested and parents made to pay fines.

Child friendly environment should be created in schools to discourage drop out, truancy and a special monitoring team to ensure compliance.

Begging should be made a crime and adults, guardians, parents and teachers who coerce children to beg should be arrested and punished to serve as deterrent to others.

It is also imperative to set up more orphanages and shelters with adequate funding and credible officials to man them.

The social service department at the state and federal levels need a total overhauling, strengthening and empowerment to carry out its functions effectively.

Insecurity across the country should be addressed to prevent displacement of people while poverty will be eradicated.

Most importantly, every child has the right to life and protection, hence measures should be in place to ensure that they survive and develop healthily.

Anthonia Akanji

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