Dressed in old, tattered clothes and looking anything but neat and tidy, they sit idle on the dusty ground and unkempt grass beside the mucky gutters, by the roadside and on street corners of Lagos. They have an unmistakably forlorn expression on their faces and squint their sad eyes at the scorching sun.They have nowhere to go, no home to call theirs, and certainly no school to run to although it is where they ought to be with the rest of their mates. These are the impoverished children; the ones we fail to notice or pretend not to see.
We also fail to notice the boy who is constantly being exploited by adults and is forced to engage in physical activities too exerting for him in spite of the physical hazards involved – as suggested by the picture of the boy lifting a contraption too heavy for him. But these children need to be noticed; they need attention and care. They deserve as much protection as the child next door. They deserve to be kept safe in homes, away from the physical harm and dangers of the streets, away from the prying eyes of sexual perverts and predators, away from the harshness of the weather. Above all, they have a right to quality education, so that they can make something of their lives and not grow into stark illiterates, miscreants, nonentities or criminals.
Yet, children continue to live on the streets or are used for child labour when they should be at school. Should this be blamed on poverty alone? Or should the government also be blamed? Perhaps, the state government is not doing enough to make and enforce laws prohibiting child labour and discouraging children from staying in the streets, especially during school hours. Now is the time for government to make education compulsory for children and ensure that every child has access to free education.
Photos by Temitope Aina