Source: National NewsTrack
As early as 5am, Emmanuel is called by her mistress not to prepare for school but to perform domestic chores so that he can leave early by 6 am and start his everyday duty of hawking cassava salad locally known in Ibibio as "Edita Iwa" on the streets of Uyo. That is a summary of life of Uyo street children Emmanuel treks from Four Lanes where he lives with his mistress to Ibom Plaza every day with the bucket of cassava salad well secured on his head. Emmanuel is one of eight; his parents and siblings live at Mbak Ishiet. He sees them only at Christmas when his mistress takes him home with few cups of rice and tomatoes to visit his parents.
Because of the rigorous labour Emmanuel undertakes every day, he endures hard physical taxation in his lanky body and often experienced a headache, fatigue, and nausea. However, despite his present condition which warranted him drop out of school in primary four, the boy still has one dream which flames in his heart. He dreams of becoming a Medical Doctor. On the other hand, his dream of becoming a medical doctor is temporarily hampered due to his present poor living condition and his heavy workload which have made him drop out of school. Welcome to the life of street children in Uyo, who are denied of parental care and childhood adventure.
Aside from the network of dual carriage super highways bordered with carpet grasses which combined to give Uyo the capital city of Akwa Ibom State an aesthetic appearance, another undeniable feature of Uyo is the visible presence of street children. These human folks often appear unkempt, clad in tattered clothes. Their looks portray a perfect picture of their terrible state of helplessness. Many see them as city nuisance and uninvited city visitors. At traffic lights, they peer into cars either to offer unsolicited service or plead for the patronage of the wares heavily mounted on their heads. Worst still others neither sale nor render service, their source of livelihood is begging.
Emmanuel a 9-year-old boy was seen by this reporter hawking cassava salad at Ibom Plaza. Eventually, when the evening came for Emmanuel to return home, the poor boy who could not even read sign post became stranded as he could not remember the right way to follow and go home.
Emmanuel who was apprehensive for fear of being lost in Uyo managed to approach this reporter with a facade of smile and asked for direction to return to Four Lanes where he stays with her mistress. Emmanuel who hails from Mbak Ishiet according to his testimony was sent by his parents to come and serve as a house boy in Uyo.
Another one Elijah by name is a boy of six years old from Utu Afaha in Uyo, according to him, he was introduced to street hawking by his mother who is a petty trader at Itam Market in Uyo. Elijah whose father is a bricklayer was seen with an empty rubber container slung to his shoulder following another boy who was hawking bread at a traffic light in Abak Road, Uyo.
Elijah whom this reporter met around 1 pm in the scorching sun said her mother did not have money to give him to buy sachet water and sell so she sent him to follow his eldest brother Joshua who was hawking bread for his mother so that he can collect money from him later and buy sachet water for sale.
Revealing his net income a day, Elijah has this to say: "Often after my daily sales, I make a profit of N200 for my mother". Sifon is a girl of 9 years old; she hawks cucumber in Uyo for her aunt. According to her narration, she was sent by her parents to come and stay with her aunt in Uyo and continue her education. However, on arrival in Uyo she was introduced to street hawking by her aunt.
At Ibom Plaza, there is another set of street children who resort to begging for alms for survival. They do not have a place of abode. They live, sleep and wake up at Plaza.
Victor and Uboho (not real names) are siblings who are natives of Itam in Uyo. They came to live at Ibom Plaza after they were accused of stealing money and sent away from home by their father. Victor and Uboho who were begging this reporter for money to buy food and eat said they resorted to street begging to survive because they had nothing else to do. They said if given the opportunity to learn a trade they would like to learn automobile repairs.