Why would children who did not decide their parents and place of birth end up by the road side? Why do some children enjoy the luxury of a homey environment and others live at the mercy of the weather? It’s purely as a result of the breakdown of societal and family values: a society and a family that have gradually abandoned the cherished value of being there for one another. That is, a prized value that emanates from the humanness of humanity. Many years ago, and in many homes today, parents and families make preparations to meet the yet-to-be-born baby who is commonly referred to as “a visitor”.
As it has been a common practice in the olden days, from Adam, humanity attaches great significance to the arrival of a visitor, as it is believed visitors always come with good tidings.
For this reason, visitors are accorded the best of courtesies and treat when they arrive. The same has been the case of many children before they are born into this world.
It is sad to say that it now appears that some children are now treated as unwanted visitors, a practice that was also common in the past. However, these are innocent children who did not make a choice regarding the parents, family and society of their birth.
They are only victims of the failure of the society. Children are only part of the larger society and, thus, their condition of life measure the health and strength of the larger society and the family system in existence.
It is now a common practice to see children trading off their future by the road side. They have no one to speak to when they are in trouble. They have no lap to sit on when they want to be pampered, no one to call mum or dad when their hearts yearn for one. They have no one to turn to when they are sick.
This is the period when they need the care and love of their parents. This is also the time that important values could be inculcated in them.
When I travel away from my family, I miss my children and they also miss me. I call often to find out how they are faring and sometimes when they don’t hear from me, my little daughter would call and ask why I have not called home. Even on days that I don’t come home early, they would call and ask where I have reached on my way home.
That is the nature of children everywhere. They want to love and be loved. They don’t want to have a vacuum in their lives. That is the privilege my children and other children do have because of where life brought them. What about the children we see daily by the road side? They have no mummy, daddy and shelter.
What is more, this is the time that they should have a positive bond with the society and be properly integrated into the society. This is also the time that they are supposed to build their foundation in education.
That is, to learn their ABCD and connect with other families who have different positive orientations.
However, they are found by the road side or in the ghettos learning a different culture altogether. It is, therefore, natural for these children to learn the culture of the people who live by the roadside and in the ghettos.
As it is known, children learn from what they see others doing, what they hear others saying and what they observe going on in their environment.
Growing up as a child, I learnt a great deal of virtues from my parents. They were not rich but showed love and sacrifice. My mother would sell her cloth to make sure we were
remaining in school, and my father would always make sure he met us halfway when we returned from school.
They gave their all and I saw everything with my eyes and that is the same, and even more than that, which I seek to do for my children. To my parents, we were always their responsibility.
So, what about children who are denied these opportunities and courtesies? As I have already indicated, visitors who receive good treats bring good tidings and so would visitors who are mistreated bring upon the society bad tidings. Society begets what it sows.
Children are gifts to the family and the society as the Good Book puts it. Why would the society abandon its precious gift by the road side? Is it not because society has no place in their homes for these children? In our part of the world, things that are precious are kept at home and those that are not important find themselves outside the house.
We may not say it verbally that they are of no use to us, but how we treat them as a society determines how we cherish them.
There are several reasons why children find themselves by the road side and one key reason is the weakening extended family system. I grew up in an environment where you could fall on a relative for support when conditions at home were difficult.
And in such conditions, supports were offered to you as if it was your right. You felt you belonged to a family.
That was how our society was crafted. It was crafted to serve as a safety net for such children as seen by the road side. That is, children whose parents, for one reason or the other, have denied them the opportunity to be loved and love.
Governments and non-governmental agencies may have plans for innocent children such as we find by the road side owing to their importance. However, we must realise that children were born to the family and society first before governments and such organisations came into being.
The argument has always been that society is dynamic and so we need to adapt to the changing pattern. What we must not forget is that our environment has not developed structures and institutions that can cater to the needs of such children as do happen in other parts of the world.
Therefore, anytime we pass by the road side and see the number of such innocent children increasing, it is a sign that society has failed. Society has been inward looking and has been unsympathetic to other children. The irony is that, the more it criticises the parents of such children, the more it criticises itself.
This is so because we are all connected one way or the other to these children and yet we turn a blind eye on their plight.
Children are always innocent of the troubles of the society and yet they are the ones who suffer most in respect of society’s ills and failings.
They are the most abused sexually and in terms of labour. Why do we receive visitors and yet see them as outcasts? Why do we receive love and turn them into enemies? Why do we receive good gifts and turn them into bad? Why do innocent children become guilty children?
Society has failed our innocent children and society must solve its own problem. Children are innocent and, thus, will forever be the responsibility of the society.
The writer is a communicator, researcher, speaker and a teacher.