***Address Street Children Phenomenon
Failure of family units has been identified as a factor responsible for increasing number of street children in Nigeria.
Director, Project officer of Don Bosco, Maximus Okoro, made the statement at a press conference to raise awareness for the movie, The Oratory, in Lagos.
The movie which premiered in Lagos, Abuja and other cities in Europe is a campaign for the rehabilitation of street children in cities.
According to Okoro, “There are different factors behind the street children phenomenon, failed homes could just be an element of it.”
He added that, in some places children are accused of witchcraft and they take to the streets to avoid further punishments.
“We have also children who are being accused of witchcraft, we have children sold into slavery, human trafficking and the rest. Even within the families, we have family members who promise to take the children to the cities and offer them good opportunities. When they get to the cities they are maltreated and these children take to the streets,” he said.
“One of the things we want the people to know is that the children deserve to be listened to, they deserve to be listened to, they deserve to be allowed to be children, if they don’t see these things in the homes they go outside and when they get outside, they become drug peddlers, they are used for election violence.
“The recommendation we always give is to have good family atmosphere and that is why our projects are a bit holistic, we have all the phases of preparation, when they come to us we rehabilitate them we also have to work with the families that is why it takes time we go to the families to study their conditions to educate the parents dialogue with them and when we see it is conducive for them to go back we begin the process of reintegration, the state government the court, and if we see it is not so conducive to return them we keep them and that is why we do not rush to reintegrate.
“We have existing child protection centre in Ibadan and we have learnt a lot from that experience, it is not enough to say the child is doing well and we return them to the homes and they see the same condition and they run back to the streets.
“So, reintegration is an act that takes a lot of thinking, discernment, reflection, to know if that environment they are returning to is right, we need to even in some cases get foster parents that can take care of them from a distance, pay their fees and care for them,” he said.
Earlier in his opening remark, convener of the conference, Mr. Gbenga Adebija, said, “The Oratory is a globally acclaimed movie which has received rave reviews all over the world when it was premiered in places such as London, Turin, Venice as well as here in Lagos and Abuja.”
Also at the event, Executive Producer of the movie, the Oratory and Don Bosco Youth Delegate, Rev. Father Cyril Ordia said it costs the mission a lot to put the movie together and therefore needs enough collaboration to take the message to the world.
“In the movie, The Oratory, we have an American actor, we have different locations and it takes a lot of money. People who believe we have to do something about street children must be involved. What we have been able to do is to produce a movie and wait for financial response,” he said.
Continuing, Ordia said, “We couldn’t arrive at that last year, there are many ways to raise money from a movie but we have seen the response of people. The Vatican news wrote about it, there have been press releases and interviews. People have contacted Don Boscoabout it as well.
He also enlightened the audience about the centre the mission is putting in place to address strictly the issues of street children.
“Three priests have been appointed full time to be in the centre we are putting together. They will not be on parishes, that centre is their parish to work with street children. It takes a lot to remove a child from the street. We have different categories of street children; those that are already smoking and others, the movie is a very strong social tool to highlight the situation of street children,” he explained.
He also talked about a proposed centre similar to what the mission has in Zambia and Ghana for street children.
“There is a structure in focus. We are going to have a youth village where we will have ten football pitches, huge dormitories, huge technical college, where you can gather around 1,000, to 2,000 children at a time. We have something like that in Zambia and Ghana where we have a lot of space to take in these children and where in two years they can be reintegrated. We are using the screening to generate more awareness.
“I tell you the phenomenon of street children is different, we are not just interested in statistics because sometimes it is very difficult to quantify what we are doing but we know that we have indicators we can use to measure our success and one of this is that at the SalesianChurch of Don Bosco, we have the need to have a centre for these children. This time around we have decided to get a facility for these children and if you ask me what has changed, I will tell you there is a paradigm shift in terms of interest and commitment and there has been awareness.
“The movie is not just for entertainment but a tool for social awakening. We have received calls from people that want to partner with us,we already have a call from our Abuja Diocese that wants to partner with us. An individual or organisation cannot do it alone, we are still partnering.
“We partner with the Lagos State government and we are fully registered with them, we partner with NAPTIP also. The phenomenon of street children is quite vast, we partner with family social system and other orgnanisatons as well to be able to achieve results,” Ordiaexplained.
Rev. Fr. Linus Nkemjinaka is the Street Coordinator for Don Bosco who also shed lights into the operations of the mission at the event.
Talking about what his department is doing, Nkemjinaka recalled that, “On the 14th of April we created awareness under the bridge at Oshodi to campaign that children on the street deserve attention. A lot of children have been rehabilitated, the movie has raised a lot of awareness, it is not just for entertainment,” he said.
Talking about the success of the organisation, the street coordinator stated that, “From January to this moment we have reintegrated 15 children. Some of the children have been returned to the government using the due process. It needs a longer period of time to reintegrate children that have stayed too long on the streets.
“We have about 80 children we have reached out to, those that came from the streets and we are looking for how to empower them and return them to school. Some of these children keep migrating from place to place so we touch those we are able to get in touch with our outreach called Charity on the Streets,” he said.
The movie will be screened again in Lagos on Saturday 20th August.