By: John ‘Dare Okafor
Begging is an activity that occurs in major cities and tons. Beggars are seen in every open space where there are many people around. Some like to whisper, some ask in their local language, some begin a trade, some yell to the people, some do not talk but, open their outstretched hands while looking at you with pitiful eyes. They do all these because they want people to give them money or other valuable items or food. This has become the norm in these cities but when there is a similar situation in a place where that been created for the purpose of production of knowledge then, trouble looms ahead.
On a particular night, I was returning from a press night which took place at Lord Tedder Hall alongside my Editor-in-Chief—we had earlier been served soft drinks as refreshment during scrutiny process. While we discussed into the night on our way to the hostel—going through the axis between Lord Tedder Hall and Gamaliel Onosode Garden—I held my unopened Bigi Apple drink on my right.
Suddenly, I felt a small figure beside me, I looked and there was a young girl between the age range of 10 and 13yrs trolling beside me, she said in Yoruba language, ‘’Uncle, give me your drink’’. She kept following us ordering (not begging) with a persistent tone underneath, requesting I give her the canned drink in my hands. At first, I was perplexed that this kind of incidence could occur at this late hour of the day and also at the audacity in which she demanded for my drink. Such entitlement mentality! If she had asked politely, maybe I would have considered giving up my drink, but the tone in which she asked wasn’t just annoying but also insulting considering a girl of her age.
The encounter cited above is just one among the numerous cases where students at large in the University of Ibadan have had disturbing encounters with beggars, most especially – child beggars. Child begging has almost become a culture thing in Northern Nigeria and is a normal feature in other states, but it should become an object of concern when this act is also gradually gaining momentum in a perceived intellectual environment.
In a similar encounter of a colleague, she narrated: “I have also noticed these two boys, they come regularly and they use the same style in begging for alms, one of them would always keep firewood in his front, call those passing by, with the impression that he wants you to help him with the firewood on his head, then he begins to beg for money. In the case of the other one, he would always come pleading saying “Aunty Please I need your help, can I get… Naira from you?’’ Each time I meet those boys, I always confront them”.
WHERE DO THESE CHILD-BEGGERS COME FROM?
This is was the first bugging question that rumbled through my mind. I want to believe that these children didn’t just spring up from nowhere, with the intention to begin the act of just begin the begging. It is also quite obvious that these children are not coming from hostels on campus where students’ nurses them.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that most them are form neighboring communities around the school. Communities like: Abadina, Agbowo, Ajibode etc. Let’s assume they come from homes where they have negligent parents who are unconcerned about their wellbeing, homes where they have difficulty enrolling them into schools either due to poverty or other prevailing circumstances. Child begging isn’t what should be encouraged by anyone, these child have the right to good education and good living but unfortunately, some of these parents themselves send them out to beg but most times, they are forced to beg when there is nothing to feed on and the family can’t provide.
EFFECTS OF INFLUX OF BEGGERS IN A UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY
In relation to my encounter cited above, it is necessary to note that – gradually, these child- beggars are changing their techniques from passive begging to an aggressive one. Aggressive begging is one which harsh words and intimidations are used in soliciting for help (Burke 1999). If not curtailed in time, it transcends to the point where they may start bearing arms in getting what they want from people.
Furthermore, another effects of having child beggars around is; stealing. Gradually, as these children go around the university environment, trying their best to eke out a “living” and they are not getting their needs met, it wouldn’t be a thing of surprise when they start going into halls of residence, stealing from rooms and people.
Another effect is; the gradual distortion of the university’s image. Imagine a situation where we have visitors or tourists who are coming into the university for the first time, and among the things they encountered during their stay were beggars in their numbers, trolling beside them and pulling their clothes for money. That would be an eye sore, right? Considering the fact that University of Ibadan is one who protects its good name just a mother hen protects her chicks.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE NEXT LINE OF ACTION?
It’s worthy to clarify that we not only have child beggers growing on a disturbing increase in the University’s environment, but also adult beggars – who would always go around faculties, most especially at the beginning of the session, where they have encounters with many freshmen who they can easily swindle or persuaded into giving them alms.
Definitely, the University management with its enormous responsibilities at hand can’t begin to identify and monitor all beggars coming in and going out from the University community, but they can always create a regulatory body that would be responsible for this task. In cases where they have encounters with child-beggers: they should be caught and held in custody with the University security service, try contacting their guardians, inviting them to school and making them sign an agreement form, never find their wards again in the university environment begging.
In the case of adult beggers: instructions should be given to faculties management and staffs not grant permission to anyone with the request to solicit for help or alms from students’. Peradventure they are caught going against this instruction, they should be taken to the appropriate quarters where they can be addressed either through sanctions or stern warnings. The fact that we are all humans is a validity that we all need help at one point in time or the other but when rendering helps or support is an endangerment to our security then, boundaries must be created in order to serve as a guard against harms.