It is Children’s Day 2012 and it must have been a long one by now. Perhaps, you have a magazine in your hand, you are distracted by some Governor talking on TV about the children being the future of the country; or it is even the President who opened the doors of Aso Rock for some of them to play with him. Yet, there are some children to whom May 27 has lost its significance. This piece is about such children, children who leave their homes for the streets to cater for themselves; children who are running from something or chasing something; children for whom something is “survival.” This is about restoration; about ex-street kids who now live in a home by Street Child Care Welfare Initiative (SCCWI), an NGO in Yaba. It is also about those who work day and night to ensure that these children have a future better than their past.
I see children on the street every day, begging, selling and making a living; but it is to Street Child Care and Welfare Initiative (SCCWI) that I go first. Located in the Alagomeji area of Yaba, it is easy to find. On getting in, I ask to see the President of the organisation with whom I have exchanged a couple of chats. She is not around, I am told. So, I decide to take a look around the home. Oyewale Oyeyemi, the in-house counsellor offers to take me on a tour of the home. As we walk, I ask questions.
How many children are here? Twenty four, he replies. This home is just for boys. The youngest is about eleven and the oldest is nineteen, in SS3.
We move through a long corridor. “These are their rooms,” he says.
The rooms have different tags bearing the names of different international football clubs on them: Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona. I do not enter. The boys are returning from school. Their arrival is greeted by a lot of “Good afternoon Sir.” Oyeyemi responds to their greetings, calling each by his name.
We deal a lot with dynamic people. We don’t show emotional attachment for the client because there could be burnout.
On his job, each day brings its own challenges, he even says that he does not specifically have a daily routine. “Every day we wake up; do our devotionals and get them ready for school. We have office work; but everything that comes after that you cannot predict.”
I want to know how the boys adapt to their new environment, how they cope with a routine and being catered for. Oyeyemi says this depends also on their age when they come into the home. “Some of them in their early teens, it takes a while for them to get used to the new environment. When they come to a structured environment, it scares them. Some of them don’t like the structure. Outside there, they do what they want but here there are measures. We keep a close eye on them.”
Culled from Bella Naija. To read the full story, click Children’s Day Special: A Day’s Journey into the Lives of Lagos’ Street Children