STREET CHILDREN PHENOMENON IN NIGERIA AND THE CHALLENGES TO NATIONAL SECURITY
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The study examined Street Children Phenomenon in Nigeria and the Challenges to National Security, in Uyo Urban City of Akwa Ibom State. The study adopted simple percentage and chi square methods to analyze the causes of Street Children and its effects in the state, 200 street children and adults were randomly selected. The theoretical background of this study was based on the relevant concepts of poverty and social exclusion. The findings revealed that the root causes of street children phenomenon has being embedded in the characteristics of the failure of families, communities and governments in their roles and responsibilities generally towards societal functioning on the one hand, and particularly towards care for children. It is therefore the maladministration of governments and the carefree attitude of families, the communities and the governments of developing and underdeveloped countries that should be blamed for the misfortune of street children, rather than in the children themselves. The study recommended that more pragmatic steps be taken by the Nigerian government and civil society to address the conditions faced by street children in order to address the challenges of national security.
1.1 Background of the Study
Street children seen roaming major cities in Nigeria continues to pose serious challenges to human, the state and national security at large. According to Le Roux (1996), the phenomenon of street children occurs worldwide across cultural boundaries, while the social backgrounds of street children are remarkably similar. A lot of studies have been conducted on street children and possible solutions suggested (Aransiola 2009), while many authors have also linked the problem of street children to human trafficking crime within national boundaries of many countries as well as across international boundaries (Clark, 2002).
Millions of children around the world survive in the street and only few people and organizations are concern about this scenario. This lukewarm, or rather, passive response to the problem of street children phenomenon is a problem that needs urgent attention. Although poverty remains a constant issue in Nigeria, specific type of poverty such as homelessness and kids in the street is yet to capture attention.
The term street children have many definitions, street children are children experiencing poverty, homelessness or both, who are living on the streets of a city, town, or village. Homeless youth are often called street kids or street youth; the definition of street children is contested, but many practitioners and policymakers use UNICEF’s concept of boys and girls, aged under 18 years, for whom “the street” (including unoccupied dwellings and wasteland) has become home and source of livelihood, and who are inadequately protected or supervised (Sarah, 2009).
Generally, national security refers to the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of government. National security in this study refers to the protection against threats, or potential threats, to Nigerian’s status as a free and democratic society from unlawful acts or foreign interference. National Security entails the ability of Nigeria to advance her interests and objectives, to contain instability, control crime, eliminate corruption, improve the welfare, and quality of life of every citizen (Obasanjo, 1999).
The major root cause of most social problems in many of the developing countries like Nigeria has been linked with abject poverty in these regions. Its effect on development is multifaceted, especially on human development and formation. Due to the present economic and social situation, the family institution is in great difficulty of coping with its function of child rearing and upbringing of its young members. The inability of the family to perform its function in this regard has led to the uncoordinated activities of children, out extreme starvation and lack of parental care fleeing homes to fend for themselves on the streets, an act, which has generated several armies of children and youth on the streets (Akpama, & Inaja, 2006).
The street children phenomenon is termed a worldwide challenge because, no nation across the world is exempted from the challenge of children neglect and parental abandonment and outright lack of care that drives such children unto the street to find ways and means of fending for themselves. Street children are a common eye sore in major cities across the world but the problem is more prominent and rampant in developing and underdeveloped nations „street children‟ challenge has gradually become an index capable of being used to measure the level of development in nations across the globe (Shelter, 2003).
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and some international non-government associations (NGOs) have attempted in their different ways to provide support for street children worldwide. Individual countries have themselves made attempts to tackle the problem locally. Kenya is a case in point, according to the country’s newspaper, Daily Nation (15 January 2000); the government since 1994 has participated in workshops to address the plight of street children known as the Forum. The paper further states that the Forum was the initiative of the African Network for the protection and prevention of child abuse and neglect. It also aimed at identifying the solutions that would help eradicate the problem on street children. However, as the number of street children keeps growing in individual countries as pointed out above, it is clear that the responses of international NGOs and individual countries are far from being adequate (Mafuba, 1994).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The number of street children is constantly on the increase, and it is widely believed that that economic poverty and family breakdown or abandonment of children was in combination the main causes to street children. However, rapid urbanization also poses enormous challenges for the urban social and physical environment, particularly in terms of the widespread poverty that results from the rapid urbanization process.
UNESCO (2006) in their publication “working with street children” stated that, these street children come from urban or rural families for livelihood. Their families are generally poor or experiencing abject poverty. These children come mostly from rural communities and minority ethnic groups in the neighboring countries living in the outskirts of cities.
According to estimates from the African Development Bank, 42 per cent of the total number of households in Africa is living in poverty. Many of the urban poor live in slum and squatter settlements with overcrowded, unhealthy housing and a lack of basic services. It is here that the majority of a city’s youth and children live. Many children, in a bid to escape from these appalling living conditions, have turned to the streets in search for opportunities. The rapidly-growing number of street children has left many local authorities helpless, a situation in Uyo metropolis which calls for urgent attention and action.
Children rarely begin street life before they are 5 years of age. When their body image changes to that of an adult, they are forced into criminal behavior or into the same kinds of work that other poor adults do to survive. The reason for this is that the small children are looked on as being cute and receive alms because of it, but when they get big enough to be perceived as adults they are considered dangerous and so getting money from the public is more difficult (Gutierrez, 1970).
Irrespective of the above outlined problems caused by street children phenomenon, children remain the future leaders of every nation and therefore needs to be protected by their families and countries. Therefore this study intends to examine street children phenomenon in Nigeria and the challenges to national security in Uyo urban of Akwa Ibom State.
1.3 Research Question
This researcher attempts to answer the following questions in the course of the study:
- Are there factors that encourages street children phenomenon in Uyo Urban of Akwa Ibom State?
- Are street children usually involved in robbery and criminal activities in Uyo Urban of Akwa Ibom State?
- Do street children usually face sexual harassment and abuse by human traffickers in Uyo Urban of Akwa Ibom State?
- What are the factors that affect the lives of street children in Akwa Ibom State?
- How do the lives of street children differ or relate to the lives of children in normal family homes in the city?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine street children phenomenon in Nigeria and the challenges to national security. Specifically, this study aims to achieve the following sub-objectives:
- To examine the scenario of street children in Uyo Urban city of Akwa Ibom State and also ascertain factors that contributed to them roaming the street.
- To understand the needs and the problem of street children in Uyo Urban city of Akwa Ibom State.
- To examine the effect of street children phenomenon on national security of residents in Uyo Urban city of Akwa Ibom State.
- To proffer possible solutions to reducing the menace of street children and strengthening national security in the region.
1.5 Hypotheses of the Study
H0: The scenario of street children roaming the streets in Uyo Urban of Akwa Ibom State is low.
H1: The scenario of street children roaming the streets in Uyo Urban of Akwa Ibom State is high.
H0: There is no significant effect of street children phenomenon to national security of residents in Uyo Urban city of Akwa Ibom State.
H2: There is a significant effect of street children phenomenon to national security of residents in Uyo Urban city of Akwa Ibom State.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Majority of studies carried out on street children focus exclusively on children in the street. To get a complete picture of poverty and deprivation in which these children live, it is important to explore the indebt factors that mitigate street children phenomenon in this region. This study is expected to achieve this at the completion of the research. This study will provide a new type of exploring the problems associated with the street children phenomenon in relation to national security. This is important as it could generate new findings aside from the existing findings from related literatures. Therefore, this study is will also help development workers and other professionals as well as the government of Nigeria, to grasp fully the implications of the relationship and behaviour of street children in respect to their fundamental human rights and national security. The result of this study will assist different organizations, local and national government to device concrete ways by which the menace of street children syndrome can be curb and reduce, and also be granted access to a measure of national security and protection. Finally, the finding from this study will serve as a reference material to the public, researchers and scholars.
1.7 Scope and Limitation of the Study
This study focuses on identifying the factors that cause street children phenomenon and the challenges to national security in Akwa Ibom State, the researcher tailored her research to Uyo Urban City. In the course of the study the researcher encountered the following constraint;
Financial constraint: the finance at the disposal of the researcher during the course of the study was not sufficient enough to run the expenses of the research work.
Inadequate Materials: Scarcity of materials was also another hindrance as the researcher finds it difficult to lay hands on several required materials which could contribute immensely to the success of this research work.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
Street children: refers to children who are homeless or those who are not homeless yet live on the street. Specifically, those children who are not taken care of by their parents, family, and other adults. These children usually live in abandoned buildings, automobiles, parks, containers, or on the street itself. Again, there are those children who live wholly in the streets and do not receive parent care or no adult supervision.
National security: National security refers to the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of government.
Poverty: Poverty is the scarcity or the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Poverty is a multifaceted concept, which may include social, economic, and political elements.
Peer groups: In sociology, a peer group is both a social group and a primary group of people who have similar interests, age, background, or social status. The members of this group are likely to influence the person’s beliefs and behavior.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): an organization that provides long-term developmental and humanitarian assistances to mothers and children.
Non-government organization (NGO): A non-government organization can be defined as an association that pursues legal, cultural, social and environmental goals; the operation of an NGO is not driven by commercial or profit reasons. The funding used by the NGOs to support its different projects is typically derived from private sources. NGOs are established for a number of reasons.
Aransiola, J. O., & Agunbiade, M. O. (2009). Coping Strategies of Street Children in Nigeria. Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences. Oxford Mosaic Publications Limited, 2(2).
Aransiola, J. O., Bamiwuye, S. O., Akinyemi, A. I., & Ikuteyijo, L. O. (2009). Proliferation of Street Children in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges. Journal of Social Work, 9(4), 371-385.
Clark C. and Uzzell D.L. The affordances of the home, neighbourhood, school and town centre for adolescents. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2002; 22: 95-108.
Gutierrez’, J. (1970). Using a clinical methodology in a social study of deviant children. Western Reserve Journal of Sociology, 4, 1-28.
Le Roux, J (1996) “Street Children in South Africa: Findings from Interviews on the Background of Street Children in Pretoria, South Africa,” Adolescence 31, 122, 423431.
Mafuba, C (1994) “Poverty spawning street children”, in the Herald Newspapers, Harare, December 5, 1994.
Obasanjo, O. (1999) “Grand Strategy for National Security” The Presidency, Abuja.
Shelter Don Bosco (2003) “The world of street children”. http://www.shelterdonbosco.org/index.html.
Sarah Thomas de Benitez (23 February 2009). “State of the World’s Street Children: Violence Report”. SlideShare. SlideShare Inc. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
The United Nations. UNESCO. (2006). Human Trafficking in Nigeria: Root Causes and Recommendation. UNESCO Policy Document. Policy paper poverty series. Paris, France.
UNICEF (2005) The State of the World’s Children, Oxford University Press.
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