At a glance: Niger

In Niger, help for children living on the streets

For children like Mahamadou, youth centres often serve as their sole support structures.

 

By Nathalie Prevost

UNICEF-supported youth centres in Niger are helping vulnerable children get out of trouble and get back on track.

AGADEZ, Niger, 18 August 2014 – Mahamadou Mala Saley is 12 years old. His friends call him ‘Shaolingue’, for the kung fu movies he loves. Like many other children living on the streets of Agadez, an historic city in northern Niger, Shaolingue is monitored by local office of the Educational, Preventive and Judiciary Service (known by its French acronym SEJUP).

After the death of his father, Shaolingue left his parents’ home. Every day, he collects iron scraps and tin cans in public waste and sells them to a local merchant. Children can earn 250 CFA francs (about 50 US cents) for two kilos of scraps.

Shaolingue’s best friend is Abdoulrachid Hamidou, 15, nicknamed Tchida, whose father died  two years ago. The two boys are inseparable.

Addiction

“After three years, I dropped out of school. I had enough,” Shaolingue says. “Before I had other friends. Then I met those ones. When I was hanging out with them, I smelled the strong scent of glue. That’s how I started sniffing.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Video
“After three years, I dropped out of school. I had enough,” Shaolingue says.

Shaolingue says that before he met his new friends, he was able to save some money. “Since I met those ones, we spend our time sniffing.”

He would like to get rid of his glue addiction. “We don’t feel anything anymore,” he says. “It makes us steal, get arrested or beaten up. We get robbed in our sleep, and when we wake up, we have nothing.”

With the support of UNICEF, volunteers from SEJUP youth centre are helping them overcome their drug addiction so they can move on with their lives and follow their dreams.

Help

Assoumane Yacouba, a French teacher in a secondary school of Agadez, has been monitoring the boys for two years. “They are kids from the streets that we spotted during our rounds,” he says. “They are friends. They fight all the time, but they are close. As of now, what we are trying to do is help them quit taking glue. That’s their most pressing problem.”

According to the Children and Women’s Rights Situation Analysis (SITAN), violence committed against and by children is closely linked to family breakdown, neglect, and poor school performance, as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

In Agadez, the child protection service monitors around 50 children. The two boys’ mothers and grandmothers see this as the only chance they have.

All children are welcome at the centre, regardless of whether they are in conflict with the law. Volunteers offer support and advice, and they are often the children’s mediator with the police, court system, and employers – and also with their families.

In Niger, the capacity to handle cases of vulnerable children more than doubled between 2009 and 2011. The UNICEF-supported SEJUP centres are more and more popular and effective, playing a major role in helping children who are in need, homeless, abandoned by their parents or in conflict with the law.

Despite their circumstances, Tchida and Shaolingue still have plans. Tchida would like to become a carpenter, like his grandfather. Shaolingue dreams about driving a motorcycle-taxi.

And as often as possible, they show up at the SEJUP centre to take part in activities organized by the volunteers.


 

 

UNICEF Photography: Children of the street

New enhanced search