Is The Groundnut Girl Just Another Nigerian Child?

 

Groundnut seller

A few days ago, there was a photo of a young girl, Chinenye Kenneth, sitting on the central median of the Herbert Macaulay road at night and completing her homework. Apparently, this particular action of the Groundnut girl ( as she is now been called) challenged a twitter user to take a picture of her and tweet at @Giditraffic

This generated a buzz on Twitter thus birthing the creation of the hashtag #GroundnutGirl and series of ensuing events have occurred since then in terms of setting up a 2 Million Naira gofundme account for her, paying for her family’s rent for two years and someone even offering to sponsor her education to tertiary level.

 

Collective efforts on societal issues like these is an indication that when Nigerians put their mind  to something, they push limits. The sad part is there are hundreds of other ‘Groundnut Girls’ on the expressways of Nigeria. Just yesterday, on my way home from work, I saw a couple of giggling groundnut girls on the same axis on Yaba road where Chinenye was seen that night. They appeared to be having some sort of after-school get together by their groundnut bottles and I wondered how many of them had similar stories like Chinenye but were not fortunate enough to be photographed by a commuter.

Circa my NYSC days, my martial arts Sensei and I were having a discussion in a bus, on the way to an NGO for street kids, where wewere planning to start a martial art training for street kids to give them a sport they could train in and represent the state possibly their country. We discussed at length on the plight of the under privileged Nigerian child and he said one thing that struck me. He said sometimes, not all things some children who run away from home call abuse is really abuse.

He told me that when he was a young boy, he would hawk wares right after he came back from school, return home to give his mother the money and then proceed to bathe, wear clean clothes and finish his homework and go out to play with his friends before retiring to bed. He did all that with joy because he felt the need to assist his mother who was a struggling petty trader.

Needless to say he turned out really good in future. Utmost respect I have for him.

I started a business at the age of seven (7),  by purchasing a crate of bottled coke from change (aka ‘take-money-to-buy-biscuit’ money) I got from visitors who dropped by the house to visit my parents. That act encourage my mother to start a superstore in my neighborhood. My father and mother encouraged me to start the business, not because we were poor, not because they needed the money, but simply because they wanted me to learn something about managing finances.

This helped me, as a 7-year old Nigerian child, to understand that money is gotten by doing something to get it and also to appreciate hard work, incentives and find an honest way to solve my financial problems; this is one area my mother trusts me in till date. With that attitude, I was able to buy my own textbooks and pay classroom dues with my own money even in secondary school.

There are two sides to this sort of experience: she could learn from her experience or not.

It is true that a child is at risk from hawking on the busy roads, especially on busy roads, sitting on central medians, under poorly-lit street lights trying to complete homework but that in itself is not the problem, is our economy built in such a way that kids like Miss Kenneth have the opportunity to sit at home after school hours and feed from their widowed mother’s perceived meager income alone? Is our community built to think that only private schools should produce the best students?

I am glad Miss Kenneth’s photo has spurred some community response to the plight of the Nigerian child, my hope is that  every privileged Nigerian will put this energy into helping the Nigerian under privileged child, possibly create an Adopt-A-Child initiative to take another ‘Groundnut girl’ doing her homework (as is expected of her), off the central median at night into her house, with food on the table, clothes on her back, a roof over her head and an assurance that she knows that her mother and her siblings have enough money to see them through one more week.

Update: Don’t forget to donate towards the #GroundnutGirl fund raising

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