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1.1 Background Of the Study
In recent times, the menace of abandoned children has no doubt posed one of the Nigerian sociological challenges. To this end, there are children in all directions with reports of abandonment, exploitation, misery and oppression by un-identified parents. Ejeabukwa (2002:24) observed that children often wrapped in bags are abandoned in the dustbins, roadsides, street corners, uncompleted building or thrown into a pit toilet by some wicked people because they are not ready to care for the children, and because of the fear of shame and stigmatization of having illegitimate children or because the children are malformed. Kanu (2009:23) also noted, “In the quiet and breezy Palm groove area of Lagos State lies abused children where they come in with their many pathetic stories of pain, rejection, abuse and torture”.
These children most probably are abandoned by their parents for varying reasons. These may include inability to provide enough economically to sustain the family. Some of
them are said to be ashamed of having children outside wedlock. Such parents mostly students feel ashamed of disappointing their parents who are responsible for their training in school. For the above reasons, these children were abandoned. In some cases, the children were denied of their fundamental human rights. They are also used for ritualistic purposes, which reveal a frightfully widespread disdain.
There are many known instances of abandonment of children in Nigeria, especially in the South- East zone of Nigeria: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States. Itauma (2009:24) estimates about 5,000 children being abandoned in South- East zone of Nigeria since 1998, and many bodies have turned up. This estimated number of abandoned children in the present day society calls for urgent attention.
In the Old Testament, children abandonment is not far fetched owing to the fact that there were series of wars among the people. This could render some unfortunate children homeless. In turn, these children became abandoned children. The sacrifice of children to Molech attests for the child abandonment in the Old Testament. Of course, God expressed his displeasure over this act of human sacrifice. Vaux
(1961:42) said that, “…for the God of Israel abhorred the sacrifice of children (Lev. 20:2 – 5)”. This may account for the preference of ram to Isaac by God, for the sacrifice against the readiness of Abraham for the human sacrifice (Gen. 22). Isaac was the only legitimate child of Abraham. It was a trail of faith in which God (Heb. ’elohim) wanted to ascertain the degree of Abraham’s obedience to Him. He was out to sacrifice Isaac to God as a mark of respect and absolute obedience to Him. It is a clear indication that God does not rejoice in the suffering or death of children.
In addition, the same obnoxious practice was also invoked in the traditional Igbo society. The people were involved in children abandonment in obedience to certain customs and traditions. Those who were born twins or had other natural disorder were thrown into the evil forest. In most cases, such children died without recovery, while some of them were fortunate to have been rescued by good citizens. For instance, in those olden days, when a woman was pregnant she would be praying secretly and hoping that she would not give birth to twins. At birth, on realizing that the second child was on the way, some midwives would abandon their patients. In such
cases, a man who cared to help would reluctantly engage the service of a very old woman to finish the job. Some of these innocent helpless women died as a result of the act. The twins were abandoned in the forests where they cried to death or devoured by animals.
Usually, children of un-identified parents were exposed to certain inhuman practices. They were mostly sent away as domestic slaves. They were also used for many other purposes such as rituals, child labour and trafficking. In most cases, abandonment of children was carried out in order to meet up with some pressing financial problems as well as cultural demands. The parents of these abandoned children were usually left without options but the obligation was on them to comply. This was among the negative culture practised by the Igbo people before the advent of Christianity. This culture usually tends to be oppressive, autocratic, and destructive.
Children who are left without identifiable parents should not be allowed to perish in our contemporary society. Hence, it is expedient that churches should rise to the occasion and try to alleviate the sufferings of these abandoned children.
Espeut (2009: 12) observes that:
Everyone knows that Fathers of
the Church laid down the duty of
the rich toward the poor in no
uncertain time. As St. Ambrose
puts it. You are not making a gift
of what is yours to the poor
man, but you are giving him
back what is his.
These abandoned children are sometimes classified among
poor people in our contemporary society. The church is meant
to do everything within her reach to give assistance to this
group of people in our society. It is not only assisting them in
their sufferings but also in the areas of reducing the rate of
children abandonment. The church cannot do all these without
proper moral teaching and fight against any custom and
tradition that promote or support children abandonment at all
levels. As the church carries out all these, the records of child
abuse and neglect will be reduced squarely. Uzodike (1990:14)
noted that “child abuse as a social problem has only very
recently gained the recognition and attention of the Nigeria
Public”. Therefore, the plight of the children of un-identified
parents in Nigeria, especially in the South-East zone will be a
thing of the past, if churches could throw in their weight to address it.
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