By Mbam Ejike

Coming from the family of a farmer, I used to accompany my father to the farm. On getting to the farm, he would start cutting down tree branches, hunting for sticks. He would in turn use the same branches of tree in staking the yams.
Most times, he would devote time mounting some of the sticks at the centre top of the heaps. Particularly, being young and a novice, I perceived this as a waste of enery and time. I mean, how could a grown up man dedicate his precious time in mounting sticks on heap tops in which yams planted in them were yet to show any sign of germination.

I would later become curious as to understand than question the rationality behind such an action. My curiosity led me to asking him mountainous questions, and my father in his gentlemanliness had explained that the intention of putting the sticks on the heap tops, even though yams were yet to be sighted, is just so the yam tendrils upon germination would easily access and follow them than spreading on the ground, which would still bring you back to the farm for sticking. ”so, it is better to lay the foundation for its growth at early start so it doesn’t depart from the plan”, he concluded.

This action typically depicts the Biblical message of training up a child in a way that when he grows, he will not depart from it. It is a foundation laying process! Most of the societal issues related to teenagers and young youths are more often than not foundational. Foundational in the sense that if any teenager misses to get it right at his/her early stage, when such a person gets saddled with the responsibility of being able to decipher the right from wrong, good from bad, the person would have become as good as being damned completely. Foundation once destroyed, what can the just man do? For an Architect, sound or otherwise, he/she understands the implications of laying faulty foundations, knowing as the whole strength of a building rests squarley on the foundation.
But I digress!

I once wrote here about the dangers of street hawking in major Nigerian Cities by our teenagers. In fact, I went as far as publishing it on Orient dailies, 5th of May, 2018. This was about four years ago. As a matter of fact, it was my first article to be published by any National daily aside some that were earlier published by bloggers and myself as a blogger too!

Given the salient issues I raised in the said article, so many people after reading it, reached out to me to say, thank you. It was such a relief!

Four years down the line, rather than seeing a positive result arising from government and individual efforts to reduce the number of our future leaders running in-between lorries and cars, we are faced with an exacerbatingly pitiable situation-one fate better spoken of than witnessed. The situation is still rearing its ugly head. And, it does appear that nothing is being done to ameliorate the situation, even though I cannot deny in truth that government and individuals have been doing their bits through scholarships and grants to young people to study.

It is such a national tragedy but I bet you, we are not stuck here. We can still collectively make a headway in the direction of the evacuation of some of our best brains from the roads and streets into class rooms. We simply have to agree that it is not just the responsibility of the government but of all of us as individuals (parents), including the wards/teenagers. I will take them one after the other so you will understand from what end your responsibility begins. And, just so you know before I go ahead, I didn’t collect State by State data as to suggest which States come top on the list of people whose Children populate the hawking majority. So, I employ you to avoid name-calling. This writing is solution-based than it is a fault finder!

According to the international labour organization, the number of working children under the age of 14 is estimated at 15 million. Children in their prime are substituting hawking for education in Nigeria under abundance. Recall that Nigeria is the glorified giant of Africa. This is as terrible as it is worrisome. Quite frankly! Does a Country have the responsibility and duty to provide for her citizens their education needs?

Although Nigerian Government has been amiss in acknowledging right to education as a fundamental right, section 18 under fundamental objectives and directive principles of State policy, specifically going down to article 3 states that:
i) Government shall eradicate illiteracy; and to this end, government shall as and when practicable provide:
Free, compulsory and universal Primary Education; free University education; and free adult literacy programme.

In the light of the above, it is not just human, right but the best thing for government at all levels to gift her citizens with the best weapon to fight illiteracy and by implication, poverty. An idle man, a popular Maxim says, is a devil’s workshop. Aside hawking in the streets to earn a living, possibilities are that there will come a time when frustrations arising from every day street hustle will force most of these brilliant ”leaders” into crime, and this generally won’t augur well for the overall development of the State. Government,therefore, should increase their effort in providing quality education for our teenagers-one that will leave them with no option of considering hawking as a means of living.

On the other hand, parents also have so much to contribute in building a morally sound and responsible Children. They have the power to save our children from truancy from the cradle by laying a good foundation for their growth. This could be achieved through constantly training their minds from infancy to focus on a worthwhile venture, to avoid giving much of their attention to frivolities. When a strong foundation is established, all that schools need to do is reinforce those strong values and morality. In the long run, the society would have been ridden off all forms of quick-money-syndrum, societal ills occasioned by high level of irresponsibility which lead to making wrong choices (for those to whom hawking remains a choice). Patience and hard work as virtue must have to be instilled in them, and imminent change of their perception of success and life generally must have to be achieved by the kind of things they are taught from birth.

Then lastly but not the least, is the teenager. The borne of contention. The attitude of most 21st century teenagers reminds me of a popular saying that ”lee ophu ephe nwa epfu ka kwa mma karia ono nkunyi ( one always in talks with a child is far better than a loner). If you can’t birth these modern children, you risk living a solitary life. In this circle, everyone wants to be free. And it begs for this question; is the world actually free? Respect, perseverance, caution, patience and obidence have been thrown to the wind and our teenagers are at rush to make and blow their individual trumpets. And this poses a great danger to all of us. Majority of them act in ignorance, their parents lacking the financial strength with which to give them sound education.
The thinking, attitude and most actions of young youths are generally baffling. This notwithstanding, they have their place in our lives, future and history. There is a need to carry everyone along in our journey of lifting Nigeria to greatness, where it obviously belongs! The earlier we all rise to our responsibilities to protect our younger ones from imminent danger that will sink all of us into the cesspool of irresponsibility and immorality, the better for us.