Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Public Perception of Street Children in Ibadan, Nigeria

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Public Perception of Street Children in Ibadan, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Across the urban areas of Nigeria, there are many children working and or living on the street. While their predicament is visible and obvious, the societal perception can help reverse or perpetuate their situations. Drawing on recorded interview with residents, parents and professionals, this study examines the public perception of street children in Ibadan, Nigeria. The content analysis of data shows that urban residents' perception of street children is shrouded in negativity. It was also revealed that the problem of street children persists largely as a result of parents' perception of children as useful "helping hands" or as "mini adults" who are capable of supplementing family income. The professional perceptions of street children have been useful in understanding the persistency of child streetism in our society. As a measure to help reverse the negativities attached to the phenomenon of street children, the study enlighten the general public to change their negative perception of these children and see them as victims of institutional, parental and societal failures. The parents are also advised to behave to their responsibilities and protect their children's right to education, association and health.

The continuous existence of any society depends on the ability of the society to socialize its children in the art of survival and cultural perpetration. The future of any society is determined by the quality of its children and the level of commitment towards the protection of its most vulnerable members, the young and the old (Boakye- Boaten, 2010). It is however, paradoxical that the twenty first centuiy presents a hostile face to millions of children across the globe. Although, the complex and varied circumstances of children living and working on the street make it veiy difficult to estimate the number of street children that exist worldwide, in 1989, UNICEF estimated that 100 million children were growing up on urban streets around the world, and in its 2005 report it stated that the figure runs into tens of millions across the world,

In spite of her remarkable natural and human resources, an increasing number of Nigerian children are being forced to the street as a result of a number of factors such as poverty, hunger, insecurity, child abuse, domestic violence, inadequate care, death of a parent (or both parents,), need for income in the family, inability to continue school, wilful deviance in a few children, literacy, housing challenges, drug use by children and peer influences (Okpukpara, 2006; Faloore, 2009, Fakoya, 2009; Obioha, 2009)

Street children are marginalized, discriminated against and excluded in mainstream society. Their rights to protection and access to basic rights such as education, health care and development are limited (UNICEF, 2003). Therefore, they predominantly live with a constant feeling of insecurity. They experience harsh and hazardous condition (Faloore, 2009). They are also exposed to unforeseen circumstances such as motor accidents (NCWD, 2001). Children working or living on the street are unprotected from extreme weather conditions and are prone to various abuses such as sexual abuse, vagrancy and kidnapping (Fakoya, 2009). They suffer from malnutrition and ill health. Their health problems are often severe, ranging from cholera to tuberculosis, anaemia and skin disease. Some suffer from psychological problems as society tends to view them as troublemakers, nuisance and menace that need to be taken off the street (NCWD, 2001). Therefore, many of them feel neglected by everyone and have a grievance against their immediate society and the world in general. They are often, and with good reason, suspicious of people and expect the worst all the time. Some of them resort to drugs and eventually become criminals and threat to the society (NCWD, 2001).

In spite of the visible and obvious predicament of street children, the public and official attitudes to them are often shrouded in negativity due to their perceived or actual involvement in petty crime, addictive habits, promiscuous behaviour and prostitution of girls and begging (UNICEF, 2003). …

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