Hello and welcome to today’s edition of WCS, Women Children and Society. On WCS we discuss issues that affect women and children in the society.
Today we will be looking at the rising case of missing children in Nigeria. The truth about missing children is hard to understand. The numbers that come with this reality are difficult to make sense of.
The rising cases of missing children reported daily are unimaginable and alarming. Now as mothers and parents what roles do we have to ensure our children are safe from missing?
The numbers are scary. It makes you ask, why? Why does it happen in the first place? Why are we letting ourselves be kept in the dark as to the root cause of all this? Truth be told, there are many reasons why children go missing. Here are some of them.
Reasons Why Children Go Missing
1. Inadequate care and supervision
Young as they are, children are incapable of making sense of what’s right and wrong. When stuck between two different paths, they wouldn’t know which one will take them home. This is why supervision is important. As a parent, to keep an eye on them is part of the job description.
Unluckily, some parents don’t have any other choice but to take their eyes off their kids to do tend to other important matters. In some households, both parents have to work to make ends meet.
With no one else at home to take over the task of watching over them, some children wander away only to disappear without trace. Especially in rural areas where the growing number of houses and buildings only increases the risk of getting lost.
Both Adam Walsh, 6, and the Lyons sisters, 12 and 10, were at the mall when they disappeared. Walsh was with his mother, who went to inquire about a lamp on sale and left the boy at a kiosk.
He was never seen again after that day. The Lyons sisters, on the other hand, were out to have fun at a mall all by themselves. They never made it home. They and a lot of other children were deprived of enough supervision, which led to their tragic fate.
Extreme poverty is one of the main reasons behind many problems, and one of those problems is the disappearance of many children.
Some children, who have always lived a difficult life, believing that maybe the next city could offer them a better life, end up leaving their homes, only to be faced with a worse problem. Some are forced into free labor; some are sold into slavery and sexual servitude.
It’s poverty that had them walk away, and it’s poverty that will prevent them from ever finding their way back. Parents of some missing children who live in extreme poverty do not have the time, manpower, and resources to look for their kids. They don’t have any way to phone the police and report the case.
The want to escape a life that causes them harm
It is not a reason cited as often as the ones on this list, but it remains one of the reasons behind some cases of missing children.
In some regions in the world, forced marriages are still prevalent, and for some children, it is a life they never want to live, giving them no other choice but to leave the house they thought was their refuge.
There’s also the case concerning genital mutilation. While this ritual has always been the subject of countless debates, it is still practiced in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The rite that involves intentional cutting of the female genital has induced fear to every girl. With the want to escape such fate, many of them run away and never found again.
Another reason children run away is domestic abuse, one of the worst things a child could ever be subjected to. No child would want to continue living under the roof that only brings them bad things. So some step out in hopes of finding freedom outside the four corners of their own home.
How Parents Can Prevent Their Child from Going Missing
Now that we know the reasons why children go missing, let’s seek ways we can prevent this from ever happening to our child.
1. Never take your eyes off your children
It’s easier said than done, but to always have your eyes on your kids is the most basic form of protection you could give them. House chores tend to distract us, but we should not let it take our attention for a significant amount of time.
The curious minds of children take them to places they should never be in. Or the diabolic tendencies of people around are enough reason for them to kidnap our children.
Always be alert. If you really have things to do, check on them from time to time, as often as every five minutes. Never let them play where you could not see them. Keep them near you.
You don’t want to rob them of their freedom or act overprotective, but sometimes, we have to go beyond what we think is just right all for the sake of safety.
2. Teach them safety tips
To educate your kids about the dangers they are exposed to is one way of protecting them. Open their eyes to the reality that the world out there is not as safe as they thought it is.
Once you have them understand this, teach them ways on how they can protect themselves. Some of them may be too young to learn any of these, but if you think your child is at the right age for some basic training, do not hesitate to give them that.
Children should never:
- accept gifts from a stranger
- approach a stranger
- get in a stranger’s car
- enter a stranger’s house
- play in or near public toilets or vacant houses
Children should beware of strangers who ask for directions or claim to have the child’s parents’ permission to do certain things, such as give them a ride home.
If approached by a stranger a child should walk quickly away and report the incident to parents and teachers as soon as possible.
If followed by a stranger a child should:
- Scream for help, and head for the safety of home or school.
If grabbed by a stranger a child should:
- create a disturbance
- shout: ‘You’re not my mummy/daddy, I don’t want to go with you
- struggle and kick providing they don’t place themselves in greater danger by doing so.
It is advisable for parents and teachers to role-play some situations involving strangers in order to illustrate to children the defensive/preventative actions detailed above.
3. Seek the help of modern technology
Children as young as 10 have cell phones nowadays. You give it to them so they can have fun, but don’t let the chance to use it to protect them slip away. Always remind your child to contact you if they feel like they’re in harm’s way. Teach them hotline numbers, whom to ask help from when they feel lost.
Another way is to attach GPS kid trackers to their clothing. This works best with kids that are too young to even dial a number on the phone. These devices will serve as your eyes when you cannot be with your kids physically, especially when they’re at school. GPS tracking devices are able to send you your child’s real-time location, making it easy for you to determine their current whereabouts at any given time.
The world is not as safe as we think it is, but with the right form of protection, we can save our children from ever going missing and facing the fate they don’t deserve to struggle
When in public places with your young children, at a shopping mail, cinema or park, arrange a meeting place in case you become separated – always provided, of course, your child is old enough to understand such instructions. Never knowingly separate from a young child in a public place, especially at shopping centers and amusement parks.
Ensure your children have at least 30c on them at all times so that if they are abducted or become lost they at least have enough money for a bus fare or telephone call should they have the opportunity.
Always know the home telephone numbers of your child’s friends and, as new members enter the friendship group, obtain their telephone number as well.
Know where your child is going at all times and in whose company they are. This is an inflexible rule. Similarly, encourage your child to always be in the company of at least one friend.
Baby-sitters should be screened carefully prior to employment and parents should ensure the sitter is old enough to behave responsibly.
If the sitter is an adult, ensure he/she is trustworthy.
Although it is fair to say females are less likely to abuse a child than a male, there is a growing awareness that some females are capable of unsavory behavior toward children.
Both males and females are capable of abducting children and it would be catastrophic to hire a baby-sitter who subsequently abducted your child or, alternatively, hire a baby-sitter who, due to lack of commonsense or whatever, permitted an intruder to abuse or abduct your child.
Although such events are relatively rare, parents are wise to assume they could be a victim rather than that they could not.
Above all, baby-sitters should not allow anyone other than a police officer into your dwelling.
If your child can use a telephone give him/her (as well as the babysitter) the phone number of your location. If a phone number is not available give your child the number of a trusted friend.
Always listen when your child tells you that he or she does not want to be with someone. There could be a reason!
Brief your baby-sitter. A baby-sitter must be provided with:
- your telephone number for the evening
- your local police station’s telephone number
- a prepared list of pertinent telephone numbers (such a list should be standard in all dwellings)
In addition, baby-sitters should be briefed on how to deal with telephone calls while you are away from the house. In particular, he/she should never offer the information that he/she is the baby-sitter as such information implies your absence from the dwelling.
Your baby-sitter should never leave the house in your absence except in circumstances of emergency when it is expected that he/ she will take the children also.
Avoid leaving children at home on their own whenever possible. If a baby-sitter is unavailable, arrange for a relative or neighbor to look after the children in your absence. Indeed, to the best extent possible, try to prevent your child being alone at any time as they are most vulnerable to abductors and molesters at such times.