“The sun,–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory” – Charles Dickens.
Oliver Twist today probably means someone who never has enough, or someone who wants more! But when Charles Dickens published Oliver Twist: The Parish boy’s Progress in 1838, it meant more than just a nickname or a name!
In Dicken’s days in London, there were Almajiris (street children) all over London. The English word for them is Waif! They robbed and begged and fought and lived and died on the streets. London was as unsanitary as Obalende used to be, under the bridge. Cholera was not strange, pneumonia was expected. The waifs were disdained and, as someone said, they were “treated as vermins!”
The response of the government was to progressively evacuate the waifs and put them in workhouses, where they worked in return for lodging and food. Expectedly, as Ekaete* experienced, the proprietors always accused them of being lazy, or of eating more than the work they did. It was hell. Often times the children preferred to stay on the streets, and to the streets they returned. I don’t think I’ve held a copy of the book in the past 20 years, but I remember Artful Dodger and the sessions of teaching Oliver to rob!
Dickens was 26 years old when he published Oliver Twist. It is believed that the book was inspired by the true story of a boy, Robert, who went through hell as a Waif, and his story made the news in those days. Dickens most have embellished it with his own “wealth” of experience as a child labourer. The book served to raise the awareness of the public about what the waifs went through in the workhouses, and it was the beginning of change.
We need to note that:
1) The “predicament” of the 3rd world is not new in the world. If England could get hundreds of thousands of waifs catered for, so much so that today some of the English cannot imagine that such has ever happened before, then it is possible anywhere!
2) Every one person can make a difference! You could be George Muller (Robber of the Cruel Street) who salvaged 120,000 waifs from the streets of England in his lifetime. You could be Charles Dickens who was only 26 but raised awareness by publishing a book about it! You could be a nice Workhouse Lord, who would genuinely, and with the right motives, keep some waifs off the street.
3) If you are in government and you ameliorate/ignore the predicament of the supposed “common,” by the time your progeny matures, they would, most likely, “benefit” from it just as you made it!
4) Finally, even if it is difficult and tough, do not lose hope! A little streak of light stealing into this dark situation will lead you to the Sunshine!
“But for you who revere My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” – God.
Nice one.we all can make a difference in this world if we try.
Well, Lanre, thanks for yet another encouragement to all and sundry to appreciate that the problem of street children (orchins) and destitute a on our streets can be overcome. As you rightly said, if that feat could be achieved by the English – with several individuals like Charles Dickens and Government, why not by us?
One is aware that some of the State Governments are currently making efforts to rid our streets of these people though there seems to be more emphasis on the immediate environmental aspect, so the focus is more on destitute a. Some governments have even moved destitutes from their own States to neighbouring States under the cover of the night! But all these are ineffective so far.
Let us hope that a more holistic attitude/approach would be adopted by those making some efforts and that others would join in the crusade. The Governments that are making some efforts now should do it consistently for as long as they are in power so that it becomes the norm for subsequent governments to follow.