PLEASE HELP ME: THE CRY OF MANY STREET KIDS (CHILDREN) IN UYO BY FRANKLINE ONUAWUCHI MADUKA
Street kids’ problem is a global phenomenon. All over the world, both in well developed, semi-developed and less developed states and nations of the world there are street kids. Some are driven to the streets out of parental irresponsibility, some are driven to the streets out of poverty, some are driven to the streets out of juvenile delinquency and peer group pressures, some are driven to the streets out of personal curiosity, yet many others are driven out because of family and/or societal witchcraft stigmatization especially in some parts of Africa.
The situation in Akwa Ibom has over the years generated a lot of reactions locally and internationally as to why it persists despite numerous local and international efforts to check it. There have been wide claims locally and globally that the primary cause and reason why the problem persists is because of child-witch branding aggravated by many contemporary evangelicals and spiritualists
In this work however, we are not concerned with the cause why many children are on the streets of Uyo and elsewhere in Akwa Ibom State and who aggravated it, but we are much concerned with the sufferings and cries of those kids. Other factors drive kids out to the streets including excruciating poverty. I have encoutered very many whose cases are that of poverty but all of them suffer the same fate on the streets: violence, eating from garbage dumps, rape, public lump-branding and rejection. The more I reach out to them and hear their cries for help, one troubling question of “what will these children become in future and the danger their abandonment poses to the society” keeps re-echoing within me.
Recently, some of the kids we at Reach Out Life International Foundation (ROLIF) reached out to cried bitterly for help. One of them Felix is a 12 year old boy from Idu Uruan who was accused of witch craft by his family and for being responsible for lack of conception in the family and was seriously beaten. While talking to him, he cried for help and said that he needs a house to live, food to eat and opportunity to go to school. Same applies to a 7 year old Bright who walked into our office sometime last month with decayed smelly water dripping out of his right ear and told us that he was tired of the street. He was accused of witchcraft and for being responsible for all the family’s misfortune, the collapse of his grand mother’s business and sudden disappearance of his great grand mother. Only last week on 20th of Apri 2017, we met 12 year old Jephtha who was accused of witchcraft by their neighbors on Gibbs Street Uyo, beaten roughly and driven out of the compound. He cried bitterly and said “please help me, I have a bright future and my family cannot help me”. We all cried.
Cries like these are common among almost all the kids we have been meeting on the streets of Uyo since we started working with them. But most of these cries go on deaf ears. At some point, we took some of them to the media to cry to the public. Felix was with us at Planet FM 101.1 Uyo for 30 minutes live phone-in program in October 2016 to cry out for help. In the same October, he, Blessing from Idu Uruan, Ofonime from Abak and a few others joined us to grant interview to NTA and cried to the public for help, but nobody has come to their aid nor come to ask questions about them not even the many Christians that are all over the place praying and fasting for breakthroughs, yet Isaiah 58:6-9 says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer your cry for help, and he will say: Here am I”.
Often times I wonder the kind of religion many people practice and teach in our time. Religion that neglects the cast-away, the poor, the rejected, the naked and the hungry and promote capitalism, selfishness, self-centeredness, too much noise making with loud instruments, much singing and dancing, fighting and killing one another, self aggrandisement, but without mercy, sincere love and pity for the helpless.
Should we all keep quiet? These children are our flesh and blood. They are related to all of us. We all, white, black, red or colored share the common ancestry as humans and home sapiens-sapiens. Something needs to be done and urgently to help many of them. It is a grave injustice to abandon these children to rotten on the streets. Many of them have great potentials, talents and destinies that need to be developed and harnessed for the common good.
Let us all rise up and do something to help the cast-away children. Children are the future of any nation and state. No child should be abandoned, neglected and rejected to rotten on the streets. Children everywhere have rights to good life, good education and good care from the authorities, families and society at large.
I plead with the authorities to establish a rehabilitation center for street kids in Uyo and elsewhere in the State and also strengthen the application of child rights act in the state. If possible, set up a child right agency to work closely with the rehabilitation center. I also plead with the traditional rulers, traditional gatekeepers, religious gatekeepers, all and sundry to help and promote the need to protect all the children in the state from all forms of stigmatization and unjust treatment.
Frankline Onuawuchi Maduka is a Missionary-Evangelist, Anthropologist, and the founder of the Reach Out Life International Foundation (ROLIF, a.k.a Rolif Mission) an outreach and charity organization that helps the poor in general and concentrates primarily on recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of street children in Uyo (see, www.rolif.org)