Daily plight of street child
Poverty and want in Nigeria are on the rise on a daily basis despite federal government’s claim to progressive ideology, I dare say. Poor parents are daily finding it difficulty to give the traditional education legacy and security to their children and wards. The resultant street children or the almajiri calls for urgent action by the wealthy and political class to avert further social crises, especially in the North. One of the strategies to mop up these children from the streets is conditional adoption of school-age children by wealthy couples, UJI ABDULLAHI ILIYASU reports.
The adoption of a child outside of his or her family is a veritable tool in fostering unity and ensure peace in the country. Nigerians who are wealthy and have the means and wherewithal could adopt at least a child from poor neighbours into their families. This humanity guarantees unity and peaceful coexistence in the country as enshrined in the National Anthem.
The type we are advocating is not the conventional adoption where the child’s birth status and parental background changes when the adoption legal processes are sealed. We are not talking of adopting abandoned, motherless children and orphans. The numerous orphanages run by philanthropists and religious groups can take care of that. We are talking of conditional adoption where children could be adopted by foster parents but retain their birth and family status. The child will remain in his or her family home, but the adoption will enable the child to enjoy all the privileges available to the children of his or her foster parents.
Thus conditional adoption here all about paying the child’s school fees, other educational needs and offsetting the cost of everything that prepares the child for a brighter and self-fulfilling future.
The purchase of clothes and all the essential needs of a child for Sallah celebration, if the child is Muslim, or for Christmas, if the child is Christian are involved. The joy of New Year celebration and juvenile toys, holiday and even travel adventures are important for the child.
A heterogeneous society
Knowing full well that Nigeria is a religious and heterogeneous society, it will be convenient that adoption across different cultures leave religious aspect of the child’s development alone.
In conditional adoption, foster parents are not allowed to adopt a child and indoctrinate him or her to their religious beliefs. For this reason, the adopted children remain in their parents’ households. But unlike their siblings, they enjoy higher privileges outside of their immediate families in all things regarding their educational needs and aspirations.
The rich could look around in the neighbourhood and extend their help to any child their heart goes to. This conditional adoption does not require tedious legacy procedures as far as the child is not taken away from their parents and the permission is given by the parents of the adopted children. So this could be done across cultures, religions and socio-economic backgrounds.
The alternative parents may not even have physical contact with the adopted child. The satisfaction of the needs of the child could be channelled through the parents or the school authorities concerned.
To foster greater unity, rich Nigerians from the South could adopt children in the North and wealthy Nigerians in the North can adopt children from the south.
Rochas Okorocha’s example
Coming close to fulfilling this advocacy, former Imo governor and now Senator, Rochas Okorocha, deserves our commendation, and Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON) for his numerous schools across the country especially in the North is not out of place. His love for Nigerian children and unity speaks in his all tuition-free schools across Nigeria.
At present, Nigeria has out-of-school children population of over 10.5 million, out of this 69 per cent are in the North, according to the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 2018 figure.
The drop from school is occasioned by poverty and reinforced by the Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen/farmers clash, armed banditry and population explosion in the North.
The wealthy must take a stand now
The wealthy in Nigerian society must take a stand now. They don’t have to wait for the federal government which is bent on fighting corruption while the poor are dying from diseases occasioned by poverty and want. Rich Nigerians, especially the ones in the North, should take a stand now.
If you are wealthy in the real sense of the word take a stand now before it could be too late. No one should feel indifferent to the problem of his neighbour. He who does so is courting disaster for himself.
A patriotic Nigerian should not say, “What is my concern” when he sees socials ills going on in the society, because whether we like it or not the actions or inactions of our compatriots will affect us positively or negatively.
Uncontrolled population in North
Take for instance, the population explosion in the North that has given more scriptural and spiritual interpretation to almajiri system of education for hapless Muslim children. All we know is that the word “almajiri” in Arabic has its noble meaning, but in Nigeria it is a euphemism for street urchins. And it is almost impossible for any Muslim cleric to prove it otherwise.
What will you do when you hear “almajiri”? When you hear that word your imagination captures a child in need of food or alms. If you contend the meaning why are the children in the conventional schools not called almajiri? What is the real meaning of almajiri in Arabic? Isn’t it scholar? Why are street or veranda or Quranic pupils differentiated?
The Dangotes, the Dantatas, the Bayeros are missing
Why won’t the northern governors, other influential politicians, traditional rulers and business tycoons and even rich clerics have their children enrolled in almajiri school? Won’t they want heaven for their children and wards? These children who are left to wander in the streets of northern cities, like ships without radar, are dangerous to the society. We already knew they are.
Where are the children of Dangotes, Dantatas, Gumis, Dahiru Bauchi’s, Bayeros, Sunisis, Maccidos and other men and women that make decisions for the North. Are they not good Muslims who want paradise for their children and for themselves?
Anybody in Nigeria now knows that the danger of such discriminatory preaching and selection of religious injunctions is far reaching.
The Prophet said in his Tradition (Hadith) that it is better for one to take the axe and go up the mountains to fetch fire and sell for a living than begging for alms whether one receives it or not. The North must do away with selective religious tenets. Religious teachings are not class sensitive; they apply to all regardless of power, wealth, royalty, education and class.
In Islam there is no wealthy casket for the rich dead. It is white apparel for the have and the have-not.
Ensuring electoral power?
In the North, in a bid to have electoral or democratic relevance over other zones probably, leaders do not frown at population explosion because it serves their purpose. The Muslim clerics do not preach against taking more wives when the husbands cannot feed and train the ones their first or second or third wives had brought forth.
Religion may frown at abortion which is no different from murder, but not against family planning. There are many ways family planning can be done without attracting the wrath of God. Why an average northerner who barely survives on petty trade should encircle himself with four or three or two wives and untrained children from the women who are all fertile?
Polygamy not the only Sunnah
Is polygamy the only Sunnah of the Prophet? If it is, what about the sin of not taking care of your children and wives as prescribed by God and the Prophet? God instructs the faithful in the Holy Qur’an to “Marry women of your choice; two, three or four. But if you fear you may not be able to deal justly with them, then only one or a captive.” Unfortunately those who do not fear injustice in dealing with their wives are the poorest of the poor, sometimes with helps from the wealthy and powerful.
If you leave your wives to the mercy of hunger and her children wandering the length and breadth of the town fending for the family instead of you the father, is that Islam?
Our indifference is sin
All Nigerians, irrespective of faith and regional loyalty and party affiliation, must rise against selective doctrine in the North. The North should not create problems for all Nigerians.
An average man would say it doesn’t concern him when he sees couples giving birth indiscriminately, and littering the space like pigs in a pigsty. It concerns you a lot. An increase in population means a rise in prices of essential commodities in the market and services in the system. A rise in tuition fees, a rise in communication tariffs, a rise in house rents, transport fares and eventually, a rise in crimes and criminal tendencies.
Imagine if the market in your community loses half of the population to another town. The prices of goods and services will definitely fall. The prices of essential goods in the place where the population settles will rise and consequently, the cost of living.
Halal children’s home
The vice president of Halal Children’s Home, Mrs Ramatu Abubakar, recently called for a legal framework to encourage fostering of orphans and vulnerable young persons in the society to promote nation-building during the 2019 World Adoption Day in Abuja. The day was themed, “Fostering: Secure the future”.
She said that while adoption is often talked about, fostering is key because there is a need for Nigerians to actually foster children and incorporate them into the larger society towards nation-building.
“Fostering is in line with Islamic Law; the difference between adoption and fostering is that by adoption you lose identity of biological parents and take that of the adoptive parents.
“While Islam wants you to retain your identity. So you can still take a child into your home and the child retains his/her identity and you will do everything required.
“We want to let Nigerians know that there are children in need of home; although Halal Home takes care of some of these children, the best place for a child is within the family.
“We are encouraging people to come and start the fostering process by taking these children into their homes,” Mrs Abubakar said.
Also a Nollyhood Actress, Mrs Joke Silva, said that there were lots of children who did not have homes and also a lot of homes without children.
“You do not foster a child out of pity, you foster a child out of love; there is a big difference. You foster a child out of love because you want the best for that child.
“You will want to give the best to that child that you’re capable of emotionally, financially, physically. You must give the child your best,” Mrs Silva said.
Mrs Chibuzor Ori-Bello, the proprieties of Legacy Crest Global Schools, Nasarawa, advised the rich in the country to give back to the society to ensure peace and violence-free country.
“I am now giving back to the community what I got from them. My entire gratuity from the pension administrators was used in building this school’s examination hall. I did not take one naira from it. We have to think what we can do for the community in which we live.
“Many students here are on my scholarship. I picked one boy from a business centre. His father ran into problem and he could no longer cope with his education. Fortunately the boy’s father was my former student.
“We also give free textbooks and uniforms to indigent students free of charge. This is my contribution to humanity,” she said.