Advances in Applied Sociology
2013. Vol.3, No.3, 172-177
Published Online July 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Providing Sustainable Supports for Street Children in Nigeria:
Stakeholders Challenges and the Policy Options Available
Joshua Oyeniyi Aransiola
Sociology and Anthropology Department, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Received May 27th, 2013; revised June 26th, 2013; accepted July 3rd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Joshua Oyeniyi Aransiola. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
This article examines the limitations of all stakeholders in providing support for street children in Nigeria
in the face of continuous increase in their number with a view to identify possible policy options in the
light of inabilities of the stakeholders to adequately support the children. Qualitative research techniques
were employed to collect the primary data from NGOs, community members and government agencies
saddled with the responsibility of caring for the children. It was found that the stakeholders are incapable
of addressing the problems of street children due to inadequate skills, lack of necessary facilities and
stakeholders working in parallels among others. It emphasizes the need for collaboration among stake-
holders to enjoy the benefit of synergy while there is also need to embark on capacity development for all
the stakeholders in order to make meaningful progress and the situation of the street children improved in
the country.
Keywords: Street Children; Social Supports; Child Rights
Street children phenomenon is one of the gravest forms of
child abuse raising concern at the global level in the past few
decades. Bourdillon (2001) noted that when we see children
neglected on the street, we should be worried about what this
means for the future of our society. When we see young chil-
dren fighting with knives, we should be worried about how
violent they will be when they grow up. This has led to the
increasing concern on how to provide adequate and sustainable
supports to children working and/or living on the streets so that
they can live better quality life and consequently contribute
positively to the modern societies (Oloko, 1999; Scanlon, Tom-
kins, Lynch, & Scanlon, 1998; UNICEF, 2012; Vasino, 1990).
According to Oloko (1999), Le Roux (1993) and Keen
(1990), the factors which push children out of their homes vary
from physical maltreatment and emotional problems, to be sent
out of the home because of misdemeanors or family breakup
and financial problems. UNFPA (2003) noted that increase mi-
gration to urban areas with associated problems like over-
crowding, high unemployment, poverty, family dispersal and
the impacts of HIV/AIDS have also contributed to increase in
the number of street children in the recent times.
According to UNICEF (2002) and UNICEF (2007) the chil-
dren’s earliest experiences within the family and with other
caregivers significantly influence the future course of their
development. The way in which children develop determines
whether they will make a net contribution or pose a huge cost to
society over the course of their lives. Hence, as part of the ef-
forts targeted at improving the situation of the children across
different countries, the United Nations made the declaration of
its Convention on the rights of the child 1989 which intended to
prompt all state parties to take actions in addressing various
problems confronting the children including street children
The African Union (formerly Oganisation of African Unity)
(1999) also noted with concern that “the situation of most Afri-
can children, remains critical due to the unique factors of their
socio-economic, cultural, traditional and developmental cir-
cumstances, natural disasters, armed conflicts, exploitation and
hunger, and on account of the child’s physical and mental im-
maturity he/she needs special safeguards and care”. It further
recognizes the fact that “the child occupies a unique and privi-
leged position in the African society and that for the full and
harmonious development of his personality, the child should
grow up in a family environment in an atmosphere of happiness,
love and understanding”. Thus, in an attempt to entrench the
rights of the child in African societies, it declared a Charter on
the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1999.
In Part 1 Article 1:1, the charter provided that member States
of the Organization of African Unity (now African Unity) shall
recognize the rights, freedoms and duties enshrined in the
Charter and shall undertake to the necessary steps, in accor-
dance with their Constitutional processes and with the provi-
sions of the present Charter, to adopt such legislative or other
measures as may be necessary to give effect to the provisions of
this Charter” while it considers any human being below the age
of 18 years as a child in Article 2:1. The Act therefore becomes
a foundation, on which each country in Africa can build their
legal instruments to guarantee the rights of the child. In re-
sponse to this, 45 of the 53 African countries have signed and
ratified the Act while various African countries have also en-
acted laws to protect the rights of the Child. For instance, The
Parliament of the Republic of Ghana (1998) enacted the Chil-
dren’s Act 560 1998, while The Parliament of Kenya (2001)
enacted children’s Act 8 in 2001among others.
In line with these developments at the global and continental
levels, the Federal Government of Nigeria (2003) promulgated
a Child Rights Act in 2003 and there are many programmes
emerging for the support of street children in Nigeria. These
programmes include the provision of support in the area of
feeding, clothing, housing, medical care and education. These
events marked significant landmarks in ameliorating the prob-
lems of street children in the country.
In Nigeria, remand homes which is one of the units under the
Social welfare department is the government agency dealing
with children’s problems and since the promulgation of the
Nigerian Child Rights Acts 2003, the unit had been saddled
with the responsibilities of addressing the needs of delinquent
children including the street children in Nigeria. The unit has
major offices in all the state capitals across the country with
other offices in all major towns across the federation. There are
also some NGOs and Civil Society organisations working to
support the street children across many cities in Nigeria.
Despite all these efforts, the problem of street children seems
unabated while it is becoming a permanent feature of the Nige-
rian societies. While efforts have been made to assess the chal-
lenges leading to increase in the number of street children
(Aransiola, Bamiwuye, Akinyemi, & Ikuteyijo, 2009; Fitz-
gibbon, 2003), the coping strategies of the children on the
streets (Aransiola & Agunbiade, 2009; Malindi & Theron, 2010;
Mizen & Ofosu-Kusi, 2010; Oduro, 2012), the network of sup-
ports from street children’s perspectives in Nigeria (Aransiola
& Agunbiade, 2009; Faloore, 2009) and the attitudes of these
children to the supports available for them (Aransiola & Akin-
yemi, 2010), there has not been any effort to assess the prob-
lems and limitations confronting the stakeholders in providing
supports for the children. Therefore the focus of this article is to
assess the problems and limitations confronting the stake-
holders in providing adequate, attractive and sustainable sup-
ports to the children with a view to identify workable and sus-
tainable policy options. The objectives of this article therefore
are to:
1) Examine the problems and challenges of all the stake-
holders in providing support for street children in Nigeria; and
2) Identifying possible policy options in the light of inabil-
ities of the stakeholders to adequately support the children.
This study was conducted in Lagos, Kaduna and Port Har-
court located in three different locations with different cultural
orientations in Nigeria. The study was carried out in the cities
of Lagos, Kaduna and Port Harcourt, which are three of the
locations where street children are largely concentrated in Ni-
geria. The selected cities reflect the three main cultural diversi-
ties in Nigeria. Lagos is located in the south-western part of
Nigeria on the narrow coastal plain of the Bight of Benin. Al-
though, predominantly a Yoruba town, there is no other ethnic
group in Nigeria that is not found in the city being the comer-
cial heart of Nigeria and street children were physically present
across different areas of the town.
Kaduna town was founded by the British in 1913 and later
became the capital of Nigeria’s former Northern Region from
1917 to 1967. It is one of the most important political centre and
important commercial centre in Northern Nigeria. There were so
many quranic schools in the town just like a typical Northern
Cities and street children from these schools and other sources
were in their thousands on the street of the town. On the other
hand, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, is the heart of the
hydrocarbon industry and is responsible for a huge chunk of the
nation’s foreign exchange earnings. The town is Nigeria’s sec-
ond busiest seaport and has a busy international airport with
regular links to all parts of the country and major cities of the
world. It is the second largest commercial and industrial centre
in Nigeria. Street children were also physically present in the
town in their thousands and this has been constantly linked to the
activities of the oil industries which have led to high poverty
situation among its inhabitants.
In each of the selected cities, the government agency as rep-
resented by the Social Welfare Department, Non-Governmental
Organisations, Other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and
the Community members were focused as key stakeholders.
Although the street children themselves are important key
stakeholders, they were not focused in this study because their
assessments and attitudes towards the supports networks avail-
able for them have been covered in earlier articles (Aransiola,
Agunbiade, Ikuteyijo, & Bamiwuye, 2009; Aransiola & Akin-
yemi, 2010 respectively). Five Key Informant interviews were
conducted in each of the cities selected for this study. These
include two key government officials which were combined
with observations of the facilities in the remand homes and
three civil society organization leaders such as a church leader,
an imam and a lawyer. In each study location, three (3) NGOs
were purposively selected based on the services they render for
the street children and semi-structured interview were con-
ducted with at least one representative of each of the NGOs.
The interview guide comprises of the NGOs’ their mission
mandate, reasons for supporting the streets children and the
kinds of supports they provide for the street children. It also
includes questions on the sources of their funding, the facilities
they have and the problems they encounter in supporting the
street children. Six Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were
conducted in each of the communities with different categories
of community members namely; opinion leaders (male and
female) (two), adult (male and female) (two), and youth (male
and female) (two). Each FGD group will have eight to 12 par-
ticipants. Each FGD included between 8 and 12 participants.
The FGD participants were selected in the same neighbour-
hoods with the street children in order to ensure that data were
collected from community members who have adequate knowl-
edge about the children.
The qualitative data collected using Focus Group Discus-
sions and in-depth interviews were analyzed using content
analysis carried out with the help of the Text Base Beta Com-
puter software. Data were carefully edited before importing it
into the computer software. The data were then coded and
sorted thematically according to the research objectives. The
data from the content analysis were then presented using the
ZY index tables.
Characteristics of the Stakeholders
The characteristics of the stakeholders included in this study
are described here. The FGD participants’ age across the three
locations ranged between 25 and 75 years and included opinion
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leaders; males and females, adult; males and females, and youth;
males and females (see Table 1). Each FGD group included
both educated and uneducated members of the communities
while there were more Muslims than Christians among the
FGD participants in Kaduna as against more Christians than
Muslims among the FGD participants in Lagos and Port Har-
court. This is expected because it is in line with the religion
dominating in each region of the country.
The age category of the key informants was between 40 and
62 years out of which there were three government officials
(one from each study location) from Social Welfare Department
at least in the rank of Social welfare officers. There were also
three church leaders, three Imam and three lawyers (1 from
each study locations per category). In total, twelve (12) key
informants were selected for this study (four in each location)
out of which five were Muslims and seven were Christians. All
the key informants had at least secondary school education.
The nine NGOs that were selected for this study are Millen-
nium Hope Programme (MHP), Human Development Founda-
tions in Nigeria (HDF) and Save the child Foundation (SCF),
from Kaduna. In Lagos they include Christian Charity Organi-
sation (CCO), Missionaries of Charity (Sisters of Mother
Theresa) (MC) and Defence for children, International (DCI)
while those included in Port Harcourt are The Adolescent Pro-
ject (AP), Home for Street Children (HSC), SOCA Foundation,
Nigeria (SOCAF). Most of the NGOs are membership NGOs
while two were own by the wife of the State Governors of re-
spective states. The sources of finance of the NGOs also re-
vealed that most of them rely on donations from foundations,
philanthropists, and personal resources. Only very few of these
NGOs are assisted by the government and corporate organiza-
tions, while in most cases, they rely on international donour
Government Agencies Problems and Limitations in
Supporting the Street Children
The government agency as represented by the Social Welfare
Department has a mandate to give succour to members of the
community with social problems. It is assumed that the Social
Welfare Department should have concerns for the Welfare of
the street children. Data from key informants also revealed that
the government through the Social Welfare Department has
some programmes for the street children. The programmes in-
clude the provision of shelter, food, education, health services
and vocational training among others, for the children with so-
cial problems including the street children. The extent to which
the Department is fulfilling the mission mandate is however
questionable. Evidence from this study revealed that most of
the remand homes where the children were kept were very
scanty with few children while the observation of the facilities
revealed that the homes were not in good conditions to properly
support the children. For instance, the environments of some of
the homes were unhygienic and dirty while the homes were not
well protected with mosquito nets. There were no constant sup-
ply of portable water and electricity while all of the facilities
were short staffed (having 3 to 4 staff) and with little or no
vocational training facilities.
In addition, some of the staff in the remind homes have not
attended any training relating to handling of delinquent children
while some have been serving with the department for more
than 10 years without regular training. Most of the Officers in
charge of the homes also complained of insufficient funding
for the few children. Hence the children could not be given
the best quality services as they ought to. It was also revealed
that the practices in the homes were dominated by traditional
punitive methods of correcting the children. It was therefore not
surprising that the officers complained that some children do
escape from the homes for street life. A key informant af-
Some children sometimes run away from the centre (Re-
mand home). When you look for them and bring them
back they escape again. We are short staffed also. In this
centre we are only three and the work is enormous for us”.
(Key Informant, Government Agency, Kaduna)
In the same vein a community member has this to say about
the government agencies:
The programmes of the Social Welfare Department are
not well designed in a way to attract the street children.
The programme emphasizes punitive measures as a means
of rehabilitating the street children. They see Approved
Schools as a prison yard. Hence, many street children
usually run away from government approved schools. I
think that, if the programmes are designed to be attractive,
it will be more productive than the way it is now”. (FGD
with Opinion Leaders, Lagos)
Non-Govermental Organisations (NGOs) and Other
Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs) Challenges in
Supporting the Street Children
Over the years NGOs have been very active in developmen-
tal issues across different nations and they have been consid-
ered as active and important partners by development partners
across the globe. According to Micheal (2002), “NGOs as one
of the most visible sets of actors in the related fields of human
development and human rights, can play a significant role in
helping to achieve human security. NGOs are especially well
Table 1.
The focus groups involved in the study.
Males Females
Male opinion leaders, 55 - 65 years
(3 groups, 1 each in Kaduna, Lagos and Port Harcourt)
Female opinion leaders, 45 - 60 years
(3 groups, 1each in Kaduna, Lagos and Port Harcourt)
Young males, 23 - 30 years
(3 groups, 1 each in Kaduna, Lagos and Port Harcourt)
Young females, 22 - 32 years
(3 groups, 1each in Kaduna, Lagos and Port Harcourt)
Adult males 35 - 75 years
(3 groups, 1 each in Kaduna, Lagos and Port Harcourt)
Adult females, 36 - 71 years
(3 groups, 1each in Kaduna, Lagos and Port Harcourt)
suited to action for human security because of their size and
reach, closeness to local populations, willingness to confront
the status quo, and ability to address transnational threats
through coalition-building”. Hence, in addressing the problem
of street children, the role of local NGOs cannot be over-em-
phasized. In this study, selected local NGOs were asked for the
challenges confronting them in supporting the street children in
Nigeria. Evidence from the study revealed that the NGOs do
provide shelter, feeding, clothing, educational materials and
scholarships for some children including street children. They
however noted that in reality, the impact of these supports on
the street children was minimal because of problems confront-
ing their effective operations.
Apart from very few NGOs that exist in this sector, most of
them were faced with lack of funds as Nigerian government
rarely support them and they rely solely on personal resources,
donations from willing individuals/organisations and occasional
grant from international agencies. Most of the NGOs also had
very poor infrastructures. In fact, many of them were faced with
the problem of viability and sustainability as they were located
in rented apartment contrary to the Nigerian government condi-
tion for their registration which mandates an NGO to have its
own building. Most of the NGOs in this study did not fulfill this
condition (see Table 2).
It was also evidenced in this study that most of the NGOs
were poorly staffed with some having as few as 2 staff and
others at most having 7 staff members. In addition to this, most
of the staff (more than 90%) did not have any previous training
related to handling of delinquent children. Hence, they com-
plained of little achievements especially in the area of rehabili-
tation and re-integration of the children, which should be the
main focus of any programme targeting the street children. For
instance, only 3 of the NGOs claimed to have been able to suc-
cessfully rehabilitate few street children while only 1 of them
was able to re-integrate such children with their families (Table
3). An NGO official affirmed;
The kind of work we do is enormous and requires a lot of
money. You know how much it could cost to maintain a
street child, giving him/her food, shelter, clothing, educa-
tion and so on and the resources is not forth coming as
such. Also, if the resources are coming as it should, there
is need for so many people to share the vision to assist
them. So there is need for many more NGOs providing
support for street children because the population is in-
creasing every day. (NGO Official, Port Harcourt)
When other Civil Society Organizations such as the religious
bodies were interviewed, it was evident that they also provide
some assistance to the street children but the extent to which
such assistance was satisfying the needs of the children could
not be ascertained. This is partly because most of the assis-
tances were rendered by individual members of such organisa-
tions in uncoordinated manner except in the case of one of such
organisations which channeled the assistance through a NGO in
their area. For instance, a key informant noted that:
Arms giving is part of Islamic tenets and we preach it
and practice it every Fridays after the usual Jumat service
especially for the less privileged including the street chil-
dren. (In-depth Interview with Imam, Kaduna)
Table 2.
Facilities of the NGOs.
Kaduna Lagos Port Harcourt
Accommodation for street children + + + + +
Vocational training centre + + + + +
Own building/office complex + + +
Rented apartment + + + + + +
Note: + = where the facilities exist; = where the facilities does not exist.
Table 3.
Achievements of the NGOs.
Kaduna Lagos Port Harcourt
Rehabilitation of street children + + +
Re-integrated some street children with families +
Provision of Shelter for street children + + + + + + +
Feeding of street children + + + + + + + +
Sponsored street children’s education + + + + + + + + +
Payment of hospital bills for street children + + + + +
Note: + = where the achievements were made; = where the achievements were not made.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 175
Whereas another key informant said that:
In my church, we occasionally contribute money for the
needy in the society including the street children and give
such contribution to the NGOs supporting them but more
importantly, we preach every time to our members on the
importance of giving arms and I know some members who
are actually doing it”. (In-depth interview with Pastor,
It was evidenced however that most of the assistance given to
the street children were to satisfy their immediate needs to the
neglect of more life impacting needs like education, health
services and accommodation, while the extent to which this
immediate needs were satisfied cannot even be ascertained.
Community Members Supports for Street Children
The community members are important stakeholders in re-
solving the problem of the street children because the street
children phenomenon is a product of the society ills and the
community members are the closest among all the stakeholders
to these children. They interact with the children on daily basis
and may be assumed to have a lot of information about these
children. In this study therefore, efforts were made to under-
stand the kind of assistance rendered to the street children by
the community members and their limitations of supporting the
children. Evidence from FGDs with community members show
that there was a mixed feeling towards the street children at the
community level. While some community members expressed
that they do give some assistance to the street children, other
are highly skeptical and have a feeling of apathy towards the
children, yet some others are very careful on the type of assis-
tance given as they believe that it could result to their conflict
with security agents. For instance, the common assistance men-
tioned by the community members includes food, money, un-
used clothes and other unused materials. Concrete and other life
impacting assistance such as accommodation, education and
health care services are rarely or even not given at all. They
further reiterated that many of those who pretend to give such
assistance are only using the medium to further exploit the
children. A participant expressed that:
I pity the street children because many of them are vic-
tims of circumstances. I do give them some unused mate-
rials and food occasionally because they have no other
option to live more quality life than they are living and
their future is bleak”. (FGD with Youth males, Kaduna)
While another participants said that:
Although as a human being, when you see some of the
children you are moved to give some assistance but again
you must be careful the kind of assistance you give. If you
accommodate the child, the police can charge you for
abduction if any query should arise. If a street child is
sick and in a dangerous situation that need quick inter-
vention and you take him/her to hospital, you could be
arrested if the sickness get worse or the child eventually
died. The police might say that you are responsible for the
harm or death of the child. (FGD with Adult Women,
Discussions and Policy Options
This study examined the problems confronting the stake-
holders in providing supports to the street children in Nigeria
based on the spot observations and interviews with relevant key
The Social Welfare Department as the government agency in
the best position to help the street children in line with the Ni-
gerian Child Rights Act 2003 could not do so due to series of
problems confronting the unit. Apart from the fact that the De-
partment had inadequate number of staff, they were also not
equipped with adequate skills to help the children while the
condition of the remand homes were also not conducive for the
children. It was therefore not surprising that the children con-
stantly escape back to the street. There is therefore the need to
urgently increase the number of staff in the remand homes for
better performance and provide up to date vocational training
facilities. There is also the need for immediate and constant
training of all the staff in the remand homes to better equip
them on how to help the delinquent children especially the
street children while new employees into the Department
should be sent for training no matter of their academic qualifi-
cations. The practice in the remand homes visited was still been
dominated by traditional punitive methods for correcting the
children which is contrary to the spirit of the Convention for the
Rights of the Child 1989 and the Nigerian Child Rights Act
2003. Nigerian government therefore needs to show more com-
mitment to the international and local treaties by overhauling
the Social welfare Department in line with changes at the global
level. There is also the need to increase the allocation to this
sector and institute adequate tracking methods to ensure that the
money allocated are judiciously used. All these will enhance
the condition of the remand homes and position them better to
be able to help the children.
It is evident in this article that the NGOs working in the area
of Child Rights and Welfare were very few in Nigeria while the
few NGOs were also confronted with series of problems. These
include lack of finance while they also have few staff, most of
who were not trained on how to handle delinquent children. It is
therefore important for these staff to be regularly trained for
better performance. This calls for the need for international
agencies funding these NGOs, to include capacity development
training for the NGOs staff in a way to enhance their perform-
ances. It is also important for the NGOs to collaborate more
with the other Civil Society Organisations in order to maximize
the resources from them for better results. For instance, the
opportunity of regular arms giving after Friday Jumat services
in some mosques can be maximized by the NGOs. At present,
the resources are given to the less privileged including street
children directly by the individuals after the prayer, some of
whom may not be able to use the resources judiciously espe-
cially, the children. If the NGOs can collaborate with the reli-
gious leaders to properly channel the resources, it will have
more impact than the way the arms giving are presently been
operated. Earlier studies affirm the importance of NGOs-com-
munity collaboration in intervention and developmental pro-
grammes (Barkin & Bouchez, 2002; Ron, 1999). The NGO can
incorporate members of the community and religious leaders as
well as civil society organisations into their programmes tar-
geting the street children for effective collaboration.
Although the community members as one of the stakeholders
do assist the street children, the assistance given to these chil-
dren is unreliable and in uncoordinated way while its extent of
meeting the needs of the children could not be ascertained.
Many community members are also skeptical of helping the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
street children because of the negative consequences. There is
therefore the need for NGOs to work through the community
leaders in enlightening the community members and working
with them to support the street children. Since the registered
NGOs cannot be harassed by the police or any security agents
as they will deal with individual community members, it be-
comes important for the NGOs to work with these willing com-
munity members to maximize the resources and assistance from
them for better results.
Finally, at present indications emerged that all the stake-
holders supporting the street children in Nigeria are working in
parallel with one another. It is therefore important for all the
stakeholders to collaborate. The collaboration of the Social
Welfare, NGOs and the community members is very important
in the light of the fact that Nigeria continue to manifest the
features of a weak state, and has been constantly not able to
properly implement many beautifully designed programmes
and policies of which the Nigerian Child Rights Act 2003 is
one. This collaboration could allow the NGOs as well as com-
munity members to have active roles to play in the running of
the Social Welfare Department especially the Remand home
system where the street children are kept, thereby improving
the quality of service and providing a medium for the commu-
nity members who are skeptical of assisting the children to play
active role in supporting them.
This is a qualitative assessment of the stakeholders’ chal-
lenges in supporting the street children in three major cities in
Nigeria. Caution should be taken to generalize the findings on
the entire country since the aim of qualitative research is not to
generalize. It however gives useful insights into in-depth of the
problems confronting the stakeholders. Research efforts are
needed towards a more comprehensive survey of these stake-
holders across significant numbers of urban cities in Nigeria
since data from only three urban centres may not provide the
most useful information for intervention. This article however
point to areas
Based on the evidence in this paper it can be concluded that
given the present condition of all the stakeholders supporting
the street children in Nigeria, they are incapable of addressing
the problems of street children in the country. There is therefore
a need to change the strategy from working in parallel to col-
laborating together to enjoy the benefit of synergy while the
international NGOs also need to embark on capacity develop-
ment for all the stakeholders if they are to make meaningful
progress and the situation of the street children reversed in the
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