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COVID-19: SELL LAUDS STATE GOVERNORS OVER EVACUATION OF STREET CHILDREN

Sharing Education and Learning for Life (SELL) Foundation Nigeria commends State Governors in Nigeria over their decision to evacuate street children and relocate them to their home states following the increase widespread of COVID19 across the country. The Governors made the decision during a virtual meeting in which the evacuation strategy was adopted as part of the measures to curb the community spread of the virus through street children.

In the past few weeks, thousands of almajiris/street children in Nigeria, specifically in the North east are being evacuated to their states of origin. In Bauchi state alone, over seven hundred (700) of almajiris evacuated back to the State from Plateau, Zamfara and Kano States.

These street children show cultural and geographical diversity. In Northern Nigeria, street children are identified as almajirai, found in groups taking quaranic lessons from Mallams, begging for alms, wandering the street, performing sometimes tedious job in exchange for food or money. While in the Southern part of Nigeria, they are typically categorized as “urchins or street boys” For example, in Calabar they are referred to as SKOLOMBO (boys) and LAKASARA (girls). These are kids that come from different homes,  communities, Local government areas and States to congregate on the streets of Calabar and form a mobile family that is seen everywhere. These particular kids are into hawking, theft or doing menial job to fend for themselves or family.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and considering the unhealthy condition, congestion and filthy environment the almajiris cum street children live in, state Governors across the country saw the need to evacuate them to their respective states of origin in order to curb the spread of the Corona virus amongst the children and in the communities where they live.

Mr. Beji Jibe, Programme Coordinator of SELL Foundation Nigeria observed that the Almajiri system over time exposes children to the worst forms of abuses while making them susceptible to been recruited into extremist groups. He laments that COVID-19 exposes them to even greater danger of contracting the virus and spreading it even rapidly.  He added that the report from Kaduna State in which about five of the almajiris who returned to the State from Kano and tested positive to the virus further supports the idea of the evacuation and reintegration of these helpless children to their parents/caregivers.

Similarly, Director of SELL foundation Nigeria, Fr. Patrick Esekon espoused that street children constitute an important and social public health challenge in both developed and developing countries of the world. “They have no access to resources such as health, food and education etc.  Evacuating the street children to their home state is paramount decision taken by the Governors. This will ensure that these children are better protected against corona virus by staying with their respective parents.” He stated.

He went further to say SELL Foundation Nigeria as an organization that advocates for the Safeguarding and Protection of children supports the decision of the state governors and wishes to make a clarion call that this pandemic should afford religious and political leaders across the North to take a look at the almajiri system with a view to redesigning it in such a way that the children are not exposed to the streets without proper care and protection.  He added that it is obvious from the forgoing that moving forward; we can’t afford to continue with this system as is being practiced.

SELL Foundation therefore calls on all the stakeholders to come together to find ways that these children can receive religious and secular education under the love and protection of their parents so as to ensure a safety and healthy community.

Thank you, stay safe.

Written By Ms.  Emily Ranna Yinala

Communications officer, SELL Foundation Nigeria

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