THE SCARS THAT NEVER LEAVE: CHILDREN THE UNNOTICED VICTIMS OF GANG VIOLENCE ATTACKS
Junior, the third and only son of his parents had a near-death experience on his way to school on Thursday morning as thugs in a supremacy battle engaged in a free for all fight. The 16-year-old lad was caught in the middle of the pandemonium at Obalende as he and other school students joined other commuters to flee machete-wielding thugs with red eyes and venomous words. As he fled, he prayed not to get hit by bullets whose sounds he could hear as he fled.
As scary as this incident is, this is not the first time Junior would experience violence in Lagos. During the Endsars protest, he watched as his uncles volunteered to watch and guard his neighbourhood against thugs rampaging the area.
Although Junior was not hit by a stray bullet, today’s experience has left a scar that the society must not allow go unnoticed.
Studies have shown that children, especially teenagers who are exposed to violence are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, attachment challenges, as well as aggression and behavioural problems as adults.
Hence, it is pertinent to shield children from violence as they tend to mirror the things they see. As America’s 35th President John F. Kennedy aptly put it, children are the world’s most valuable resource and the best hope for the future.
It behoves upon us as a society to ensure that we provide an environment where they can flourish and attain their potentials- this includes ensuring that they are protected from gang violence.
Violent clashes must be nipped in the bud to safeguard the lives and properties, as well as to protect the mental and emotional wellbeing of the children.
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As it stands, the advent of the Coronavirus has forced a lot of changes in homes, with children forced to stay at home for months while many families have been thrown into a state of penury following unprecedented job losses and pay cuts.
There is a tendency to ignore the impact of these changes on children with impressionable minds. Unfortunately, access to a professional counsellor is not affordable for a lot of Nigerians, so many find healing in religion and words from spiritual leaders which leave kids with no one talk to.
Hence, it is important that the violent clashes as recently witnessed in the Obalende, Surulere, and Ikorodu areas of Lagos are nipped in the bud so the children would not find acts of rebellion and thuggery as a means of escape and expressions.
ADVISORY: Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as well the Commissioner of Police must prevent the reoccurrence of gang violence not only to maintain law and order in Lagos State but also to protect the mental and psychological well being of the children being nurtured in the country.