THE IMPLICATIONS OF STREET CHILDREN ON SECURITY
Security challenges are one of the major social problems confronting not only Sokoto Metropolis or Nigeria in general, but most of the third world countries and some other parts of the world. Street children are often found to be active participants in most of the social uprisings that were witnessed in some parts of Nigeria, particularly Sokoto metropolis. The quest to find out why and how the number of street children is increasing and how it affects the level of security prompted the conduct of this research work. In the course of the research, qualitative research technique was adopted. Focus Group Discussion and key informant Interviews were the methods through which data were gathered. The data were presented in narrative form (prose style) whereas content analysis was used in the interpretation of the data. Social disorganization theory was used in as the theoretical framework. The research work found poverty, unemployment and poor and inadequate learning facilities as the major contributors to the escalating number of street children. In the course their day to day activities, the street children were found engaging in some delinquent activities such as theft, smoking and sexual practices etc. during any social upspring, they were found to be active participants and consequently, increase the rate of material and human damages. It was also found that solutions to the increasing number of street children revolve around family, community and government efforts. The researchers recommended employment generation, less family reliance on children and formulation of some welfare policies as the solutions to the increasing number of street children and their implications generally.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Biologically, a child is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. The legal definition of child generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. On the other hand, the United Nations convention on the right of a child (1984), as cited in Wikipedia, defines a child as a human being below the age of eighteen (18) years, unless under the law applicable to child, majority is attained earlier. Wholly, children of or below the age of eighteen are expected to be in schools and other related training centers to realize and develop their potentials. (UNCRC, 1984). However, certain social problems such as poverty, family breakdown, peer-pressure, hawking and begging (in some part of Nigeria) make these children to drop out of schools and roam about the streets in their thousands in most cities of many third world countries particularly Nigeria, such children are often referred to as “Street Children” (Oha, 2008).
Street children are a term for children experiencing homelessness who live on the streets of a city. Street children, according to Brethaton, (2005), are those children (under the age of eighteen), whose lives and livelihood are primarily understood in terms of their relationships’ to the streets. Bretherton (2005) also argues that they are characterized by loneliness on the street, sheltherleness, loss of parental contact and protection, love and care etc. They are mostly at risk of certain social problems (such as harassment, trafficking, hunger etc) and also a risk to the societal stability.
According to Fakoya (2009), “two different categories of street children are found in Nigeria.” There are those who live and work in the street (children of the street) and those who live and work on the street full or part-time, but return to their homes each night (children in the street)”. In the case of this research project, the two categories will comprise the subject matter of the study. This is due to the fact that the two categories constitute the leprous arms of the same alarming social problem which is security challenges. According to Oha (2003), the escalating phenomena of street children is being propelled by corruption coupled with legendary mismanagement of natural resources which has made the provision of social amenities (including schools) for these children almost impossible in Nigeria.
Consequently, these children look forward for necessary means through which they respond to their needs. These means include; begging, theft, hawking, drug abuse, picking pocket and above all, constituting a major tools of violence by becoming ethno-religious soldiers in many social upheavals. Therefore, this becomes serious implications on security of the third world countries, particularly Nigeria.