Child Beggars: Their Faith and Our fate

By Ogunaike Samuel

This morning, I woke up to set aside my bothersome thoughts on another extension of the ongoing lockdown, as contained in the President's broadcast, coupled with the intending curfew and the horror or havoc that covid 19 has wreaked on us. Who is a child was the first question I tasked myself to answer. The definition offered by the ILO's Child Labour Convention and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, came to my rescue, as it defines a child as a youth below 18 years of age. In the word of (Taher, 2006), children are the greatest asset of a nation because the after-life of any nation largely depends on children, so they are the "father" of any nation.

Following this conceptualization, it beggars my imagination to believe that some of the asset members of this nation are those unkempt, shoeless, dirty, scruffy and smelly children on our streets with bowls for alms. In curiosity, I sought to know more about these child beggars. In honesty, they are children of preteen ages who depend on sympathy skills to compel the generosity of passers by. They are creatures of acute lack of life requirements such as water, shelter, sanitation, information, nutrition, education and health. At this point, it appears to me that I am unraveling the enigma of child begging.

To further whet my curiosity, I wanted to know what their faith was and still is. As defined by Wikipedia, faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing or concept. Immediately, I put it to myself: "In whom have child beggars trusted or put their confidence in? After several well-guided hunches, I laid hold of the man in whom these destitute boys have trusted. Their parents, particularly, their fathers. Child beggars, like every other child, believe in the same thing as their fathers. It is pathetic that these children, since they do not know any better, believe in the lifestyle and way of living of their parents and guardians, as such, feel jubilant and vastly unworried going about to seek some naira notes.

Considering the fact that they are naive, one may understand why they can't reason otherwise. To them, begging is a trade and a profession where sympathy skill gets you some profits and compels even rufffians to take a look at you. Child beggars are naive and ignorant children who have been deprived of decency of livelihood. Child begging is a vicious cycle- like father, like son. At this point, it appears we have only one option to stop these destitute kids from reproducing their kinds, lest, the future government will be dealing with a new crop of child beggars.

Many governments, for example, have tried many options while others stay alert, to follow suit, in case the cure is finally found. The government of Mr Babatunde Fashola, a former Lagos State Governor, attempted criminalization of street begging, at first, it appeared to have been effectual, but today, the dead child beggars, literally speaking, have resurrected, in fact, in their drones. Dr Abdullahi Ganduje - Kano State Governor -recently banned street begging in the state. Sadly, with the benefit of hindsight, we know, child beggars will resurrect. A bit into the distant past, In 1987, Group Captain Mohammed Umaru tried finding an end to the nauseating sight of the street roaming children- futile effort- too.

While it appears the government is helpless, I believe, we need to get the faith of children-beggars overhauled, by replacing their trust in begging with trust in skills, dignity, education among others. Stop their faith, lest they maintain their resurrection. The street roaming children are naive, a reformation and adequate rehabilitation is the bright option before us. We can't ban them without reshaping them; we can't withdraw the bowl from them, without giving them something in return and I think what to give them is a new faith. In a nutshell, pathetically, child beggars are unfortunate victims of poverty, uncontrolled birth, lack of education and a vicious cycle.

That said, what is our fate? Unbelievably, we are inexplicably connected to these child beggars. Foremost, we both inhabit the same state and country, thus, we can't wake up not to see them, at least, for now. We appear to be tied by a future chord, after all, they would grow into something, of course, something dangerous like kidnappers, prostitutes, hoodlums and may be something more unimaginable. In another 20 years, we shall meet at the corridors of tomorrow- whatever they have become socially, is what we shall deal with as a society; whatever they have become psychologically, is what we shall deal with from our psyche. In sum, child beggars are naive, therefore, we should expect them to keep running away from their Almajiri school or any Western type, because they do not know the importance of education, but, if rebirthed faith-wise, they will leave the street and help chase others out of the the street. We can't win this war by total ban or criminalization unless by genuine and sincere orientation and faith-rebirth.

Samuel Ogunnaike, Lagos.

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