CHILDREN, adolescents and youths constitute not only a chunk of the Nigerian demographics, but also make up the next generation of parents, workers and leaders. Hence, their well-being has implications for their lives and those of the children they will bring into the world, and the organisations and societies that they are supposed to build and maintain.
Bearing this in mind, sighting children between the ages of 13 and 19 roaming the streets has thrown my mind into a state of confusion. These children are supposed to be engaged in meaningful activities, be it education or apprenticeship. They should be prepared early enough for the challenges that might come their way in the emerging Nigeria.
The high level of poverty in the country has thrown many families into untold financial problems which have deprived their children of the needed parental support. Of course, the need to continually provide for the family amid unfriendly conditions has led parents and children alike to engage in hustling for survival.
However, the routes taken by these children to keep body and soul together give many residents and social commentators in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, a reason to worry. These include selling in traffic jams, cleaning of car windscreens, pickpocketing, pushing wheelbarrows and begging, to mention but a few. These set of teenagers can be found in places like Iwo road, Challenge, Sango, Total Garden, Ojoo and other areas.
As I was about to take a bike in Challenge a few days ago, a teenager walked up to me, claiming he did not only have an injury on his leg but had not eaten anything for some days. The okada rider requested him to show us the wound on his leg, but he only told the former to mind his business and immediately fled like a car racer. Obviously, the teenager had only feigned injury and starvation so he could secure the sympathy of commuters who would, hopefully, give him something in return.
The consequences of street hustling include sexual abuse, which later leads to teenage pregnancy and early marriage. In fact, teenagers exposed too early to street hustling believe that making money and spending it recklessly is more important than acquiring formal education.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the advantages of banning and/or penalising these acts far outweigh the disadvantages. Hence, parents and guardians should engage their children and wards in their businesses or enroll them for apprenticeship, in order to make them financially independent in the future.