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How Do We Take Child-Beggars Off The Streets?

Busari Audu stepped out of the restaurant into the evening sun. He rubbed his hand on his belly, twirling a broken broomstick around his mouth with his tongue. He stood by the road, arms akimbo, waiting to hail a bus to take him home. Soon after, he felt taps on his arm. He rubbed his arm without looking at first, but as the taps became more frequent and insistent, he turned to see a young girl standing beside him, gesticulating to her mouth with her left hand. Busari understood what it meant: the girl was begging for money.

He looked at her from her toes to her head. The girl’s hair sat on her head, rough and unkempt. She had stains of ewedu soup on her blue blouse and the other hand, which she tried to hide, was covered in soup. Busari walked some steps away from her but after some time, he turned, beckoned to her and handed her a fifty naira note. 

She scuttled off and Busari followed her with his eyes. She walked towards a woman who sat under the umbrella shade, a child strapped to her back, and sat beside her. That is her mother, Busari thought. After standing for more minutes, he decided to walk down the junction. As he passed by, the woman said, “eshey sir” (thank you, sir). That confirmed it: she was the girl’s mother.

This was not Busari’s first encounter with a child beggar.

This was not Busari’s first encounter with a child beggar. Children aged 6-10 approached him three times last week, but there were no mothers present. It happened so often that he started to feel guilty whenever he refused to give them money. It was the guilt that made him give the little girl fifty naira.

Inside the bus, Busari thought about those children. Aside from the girl, do others have parents? Why are they beggars? How would these children attend school if their parents struggle to feed them? What does the future have in store for them?

Like Busari, several Nigerians have been approached by these children, begging for something to eat. In Nigeria, child poverty is one of the most hazardous crises in the country. According to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report of the National Bureau of Statistics, about 67.5 million out of 99.6 million children in Nigeria are multi-dimensionally poor, lacking access to education, proper food and clean water, and suffering from severe malnutrition.

A 2020 report published by UNICEF shows that Nigeria ranked 174 out of 180 countries, in advancing child flourishing. The report finds that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide are under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and other factors. 24.56% of children also face extreme poverty by living in households that spend less than 845 naira ($1.90) a day. If the government understands how disastrous child poverty is to the country’s economy, we are yet to see the measures put in place to tackle the situation.

Although, Nigeria has a Child’s Rights Act that protects and guarantees the rights of all children, only 24 out of 36 states of Nigeria have adopted the CRA as a state law. This means there is much work to be done in ensuring that children are well protected and catered for at all stages and levels.

Child poverty is a global problem; 1.2 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. But countries like the UK are able to tackle child poverty through a number of policy interventions such as efforts to increase employment for lone parents, additional benefits targeted specifically at children like child tax credit, significant investments in early years education and care, and the UK’s 2010 Child Poverty Act which is designed to “eradicate child poverty and create a framework to monitor progress at a national and local level.”

Beyond giving child-beggars money, we can support individuals and NGOs like ChessInSlums Africa, Street Child and Welfare Initiative (SCCWI), Helpers Social Development Foundation, Save the Children, Dream Catchers, and many others pulling their weight to eradicate child poverty in the country, by donating, funding, referring and encouraging them. Giving child beggars 50 naira is great but not sustainable in the long run.

The government can also support these NGOs with funding, equipment, facilities and amenities like shelters, good water, clothing, and the rest. Some government-owned primary schools are currently free, government can take it a step further by providing free school uniforms and educational tools, and free meals. It will motivate them to continue their studies if they know that they will get a meal while learning.

Adopting children and taking them off the street is also a great alternative. Imagine if everyone who is financially buoyant enough adopts one or two children, takes them off the streets, and commits to paying for their education or catering for them. To reduce child poverty and ultimately prevent child begging on the streets, all of us must play our part.

 

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Photo by Andy Barbour for Pexels

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