It had always been peaceful there. A time when life seemed simple and everything felt perfect. It wasn’t, though. It was the only life I knew and I was happy with it. I remember waking up early to watch the sun rise, it was such a beautiful sight as their rays illuminated the mountain side and the cool breeze shook the leaves on the trees to create the perfect soundtrack.
Life was beautiful in the village and often times we heard tales from the city about their cars, their buildings and the hustle – they all sounded interesting but stressful. My aunt Sade was from the city – Lagos in particular. She had left before I was born and often times she visited bearing boxes filled with sweets. This made all the children look forward to her arrival with glee.
I had just turned twelve and about to start secondary school when Aunty Sade asked for me to accompany her to the city and live with her. Even though I had felt life was simple, my parents found it tasking indeed. Aunty Sade’s offer seemed heaven-sent – one less mouth to worry about and one less school fees to pay! Aunty Sade had promised to send me to one of the best schools in the city and my parents were more than happy to see me go as she promised I would come visit for the Christmas holidays.
The journey to Lagos was stressful – too much honking, so many bad roads and potholes. It was a miracle we made it in one piece. Aunty Sade lived in a very small wooden structure in a very dirty slum. That first night I managed to find a small spot on the floor where I curled up to sleep. A week after getting to the city, Aunty Sade took me to a canteen where she introduced me to a chubby-looking elderly woman who seemed to always be shouting. There were many young girls around the place who were either engaged in cooking or serving the customers. The woman and Aunty Sade spoke for a while in hushed tones. When Aunty Sade made a move to leave, I quickly jumped to follow her, but she stopped me saying “I bi lo ma wa ni si” (This is where you’ll be from now on).
I am sixteen now, and I have been with Iya Tobi for four years. I haven’t seen my parents since then, never seen the inside of a school but once every month I see Aunty Sade at the canteen and she gives me N500 before she leaves. I miss the village and the sun rise, life isn’t so simple anymore and the sun isn’t so bright.
This is the reality of thousands of children living in urban slums. Child trafficking is a big issue in Nigeria with the children and their parents being given false hopes of a better life and greener pastures only to find out that these children will spend their time working for other people and denied access to quality education. Bethesda along with its Partners are working to ensure the protection of the rights of children, specifically their right to education. To join our growing network of supporters, please contact Ijeoma on 08033536487.