In recent times, more homeless teens are seen in our streets. While some engage in washing car windscreens and other manual labours, others just beg out rightly. *These children have drifted from their homes or families of orientation, and they make the streets their homes*. In Calabar, they are known as the “Skolombo” boys, they have taken over the entire Calabar South, they are gradually extending to municipality and the Calabar metropolis.
They live at the hills and valleys in the bushes of Calabar and other such areas or camps. *They are most especially harmed by harsh physical conditions, violence and harassment, labour exploitation, absorption into criminal networks and denial of their right to receive an education that will equip them to achieve a better life*
Most studies have focused on street children in general, and a number of factors are usually considered as the reasons for their being in the street. *These include conflicts within the family; physical, emotional and sexual abuse; single parenthood, poor parenting, poverty, termination of education, child labour and peer influence.*
Considering the fact that the Alamajiris in the northern Nigeria are the core breeders of Boko Haram (Don’t get me wrong, “Alamajiri can survive without Boko Haram but the later can’t survive without the former”), *it is just appropriate to stress that these stray kids will institute the bedrock of the uprising in Cross River State if not properly handled and curtailed beforehand*.
There is the need to adopt approaches that would address homelessness among children and youth as well as how to ameliorate the already existing situation. The involvement of individuals as persons becomes germane. This is because the human factor is very crucial in the successful implementation and execution of any programme that may be put in place.
For there to be any meaningful success in dealing with the problem of homelessness among children and youth, *individuals as persons have to understand the enormity of the problem at hand and have to be personally convinced of the need to pursue the cause of children and youth*. This, to me, is the first step in the right direction because the stumbling block of human unwillingness to take implementation steps would be circumvented.
For the Government to deal with these “timed bomb waiting to explode”, the State Government must own up to her responsibility of protecting lives and properties by creating a camp for these internally displaced persons(IDP).
These camps would provide the basic education and morals and train these kids in hands-on-the-job skills like masons, plumbing, electrical and mechanical services. *This would also reduce the amount of capital freight currently ongoing in our state*.
It is no news that most stylish buildings (residential and commercial) in Calabar metropolis have its artisans imported from Lagos, Cameroon and Togo to handle jobs like “Paris Of Plastic” (POP) ceilings, walls screedings and paintings, electrical installations etc. _while the home youths are busy in politics, assuming offices of personal assistants and special assistants to another personal assistant of the assistant to a politician_.
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Our legislatures should also pass bills to this effect. Laws that will enable the government to adopt these timed bombs(stray kids) while dozing out serious punishments to their parents. *Laws that will put pastors who christened kids as witches behind bars.* Laws that will sanction relatives of stray children from participating in electoral activities or assuming any political office in the state. Strict laws to cut these menace in our society!
The judiciary are not left out. The welfare courts should be more strengthened to accommodate jail terms for parents who neglect their responsibilities. Children should also be given the opportunity to sue their parents and caregivers at a zero service charge.
In conclusion, the proliferation of stray children in Cross River State will lead to more devastating effects in the long-run. Effects ranging from an epidemic outbreak to security challenges are top priority for consideration. While the government must stop at nothing to curb this problem and give those children a sense of belonging, their parents and guardians must not go unpunished!
*Jake Clifford is the Editor-in-chief and the publisher of Weetalknaija Daily*