Nigeria Grassroot News Reporter, Zainab Adewale uncovers how broken marriage negatively affects teenagers, many of these homeless children now live at various motor parks striving for ends meet.
It was on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 1st, 2022 when this reporter sighted a 16-year-old boy, Johnson Okafor, who was running towards a bus that had just parked to drop off its passengers at the Iwo road garage, in Ibadan Oyo state.
As the driver hopped out from the driver’s seat, he walked a few steps to the car boot to offload the passengers’ luggage. Immediately, Johnson rushed to the driver and assisted him in doing so, a few moments later, he held one of the passengers’ boxes and asked the owner (a lady) if he could help her carry the big bag to where she was heading to and the lady responded affirmatively.
As this was ongoing, the discussion about a price was also in progress. Johnson carried the box on his head along with another bag in his right hand. As soon as they arrived at the bus parked next to them, the lady gave him a N500 note. The expression on his face shows that he was satisfied as he beams on after receiving the money. Immediately, he turned to leave back to his previous location to continue the daily routine as a laborer.
Iwo road garage is one of the most popular, and arguably one of the largest motor parks in the Southwest. Just like Johnson, many others dispersed around living on such menial jobs for daily meals.
Many of these children when asked have different crazy stories to tell about. While some have accepted it as their fate, others still keep their faith that things will still turn around for them later in life.
Johnson grew up knowing only her aunt, and not even his parents. The narrative he was told is that his parents were nowhere to be found. When he was 10, the young lad made his way to the street after leaving his sister’s residence.
He gets himself involved in the street work and starts hustling as a laborer. Despite being a lone ranger, Johnson loves education but he struggled with finance, his income as a laborer could no longer sustain the essentialities of being a student, so he opted out of school in 2020.
“I’m not pleased with being on the streets, but I’m glad I’m surviving. Sometimes I get up to N4,000 or N5,000 in a day, but I have to spend the entire amount to avoid being robbed by the big boys when we sleep at night.
“My parents are unknown to me, and I don’t feel I want to see them because it is clear they do not want me. I wish to finish secondary school, but there is no one to assist me, so I must find other ways to get by,” he added.
‘We Sleep Anywhere At Nightfall’
Samuel Babalola, 15, had no option but to quit school two years after his parents separated in 2014. He grew up with his father, who is a bricklayer, but hardships forced him into highways where he works, earns little money, and sleeps in parks.
Samuel disclosed that his dream was to become a lawyer, own a chamber in his name, and live like a child of the wealthy ones, but things fall apart because his bricklayer dad could not afford to pay for his tuition.
“I want to go back to school, but my father doesn’t have the money to sponsor me so I decided to work as a laborer instead, and when I gathered my daily earnings, I gave some to my father so he could buy food. Though he works as a bricklayer, jobs don’t always come by.
“When I couldn’t proceed with my education, I learned vulcanizer, but hardship forced me to stop and work for money for my father and me to feed on,” he added.
A report on the consequences of a broken home revealed that every child who experiences one suffers greatly. The severity of these impacts varied depending on the child’s age at the time of the separation of the parents and the dynamics of the family. Although young children may experience a few negative development problems, teenagers and older children may experience some problems in their social, emotional, and educational functioning.
Some children who have experienced maltreatment from relatives in the past, such as physical, psychological, and physical abuse have also become streetwalkers due to the same circumstances.
Iyanuoluwa* 23, who is an undergraduate student of Obafemi Awolowo University disclosed that she falls on the street due to her aunt’s forms of maltreatment of her.
“I lived with my aunt for 17 years without enjoying any parental love. When I was seven years old, my parents separated, and I later had to live with my aunt, leaving my mother and my two younger brothers behind. It was difficult since I didn’t get along well with my aunt or my mother, who occasionally came to visit me, and I had no contact with my siblings.
“In my academic career, there have been some mistakes that cannot be undone. I must put up with it. In particular, when I had to select a course of study for school. Since I had no one to lead me, I made my own decisions and in the long run, they did have an impact on me.
“My mother and I don’t have a close relationship, so she doesn’t know anything about me. Presently, I’m still growing with help from my friends and I hope every other young person out there having challenges from a broken home finds themselves in a better situation one day,” she concluded.
Causes Of Broken Homes in Nigeria
A study revealed that the causes of broken homes can be as a result of the death of one parent, divorce, desertion, separation, prolonged absence, differences in background, the wrong basis of marriage, occupational faults, poverty and money troubles, ill health, and infertility, sexual compatibility and interference of relatives.
Psychologically home conditions arise mainly from illegitimacy of children, the label of an adopted child, broken home, and parent deprivation which shows that such abnormal conditions of the home are likely to have detrimental effects on the development of the child.
Consequences of a broken home can lead to child abuse and child neglect which includes physical neglect, emotional neglect, and medical neglect with confirmation that children are many times safer living with their biological parents than in any family configuration.
Also, Child support payment and experience place a monetary strain on one or both parents which directly affects the children negatively. This can lead to physical abuse which involves injuring the child’s body by beating them, burning them, or breaking their bones.
A senior lecturer at a federal university, Obafemi Awolowo University, Dr. Olusegun Joseph, said that issues like this occurs in families where children experience a harrowing context of their parent’s separation.
“These children suffered many emotional, academic, and social challenges. During one of my supervision, I observed that some of them come from a home where they were raised by a single mother. These students solely rely on their mothers’ support and love which is a concern for study. Single parenting has always been a situation where mothers are at the receiving end of real trauma and the men walk out of the marriage.
“Some of these students come out well, despite having to come from this type of background, they make their way through probably because they have strong mothers, their personal decision to make it, read well, and mix with the right people. There was a particular student who had critical challenges and had to be taken care of by a lecturer in the department through counseling and occasionally calling his father to send the boy some money. He was the only one who couldn’t make it through, perhaps the challenges were too much for him.” he recounted.
Dr. Olusegun also explained how these circumstances affect students’ performance academically, as most of them struggle throughout their stay in tertiary institutions.
“Aside from academic challenges, these students also face emotional and financial difficulties. The assistance we can render to these students is to encourage and talk to them.
“They should also know that God’s factors matter in situations they find themselves in. Schools and institutions should have some units that care for issues concerning students with unusual challenges. Units like counselors and psychologist units that can be of great assistance to the students. ” he added.
A clinical psychologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Dr. Juliet Ottoh revealed that most children from such homes suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD which she said can lead to depression and possibly suicide.
“These children can suffer borderline personality disorder when they are attached to either parent and there is a separation. Such children are prone to self-harm,” she said.
Dr. Sharon Olajidi, of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, also revealed that lack of access to the developmental needs of the children is detrimental to the rights of the Nigerian child.
“Special attention is required for Nigeria which is the country with the largest increase in absolute numbers of both birth and child population, it is time that we acknowledge our shared responsibility and address this issue”, she added.
There is a maxim that the family is the bedrock of society such that if it falls apart, society generally heads for the rock of social and cultural decline. Children of broken homes have been a big issue of discourse in Nigeria, they got deprived of education, adequate parental care, and wider opportunities. The major effect of this varies, these children if not trained later become thugs, raiders, and fugitives when they can no longer bear their condition.