Inside life: The struggle of the dust boys

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I call them the dust boys.
They are small boys.
Less than 10 years old.

I see them every time I go to the refuse dump in the neighborhood to drop my refuse.
At night time.

I see them perching on top of the refuse dump.
Digging through.
Searching for valuable items.
That they toss inside their sack bags.

I see them chatting excitedly.
Cracking jokes and taunting each other.
They seem happy and contented.

With their lot in life.
I have always tried to talk to them.
Without success.

On Monday night, I made up my mind to talk to them.
I picked up a big bag and tossed all my empty plastic bottles into it.
30 bottles.
I carried the bag and walked to the dump.

“Who wants empty plastic bottles?” I said to them.
One of them jumped out of the dump and stood before me.
“I want it, thank you” He said in Ibibio.

“What do you do with the bottles?” I interrogated.
“I sell them”
“How much do you sell them and what do you do with the money?” I probed further.

“I sell these small coke bottles 4 for N20, the big bottles I sell them 1 for N10”
“What do you do with the money?”
“I give the money to my mother. She uses it to buy food for us”

He was not comfortable with the questions.
He thanked me once more and took his booty away.
I stood there and reflected on life.
Inside life.

Some people have so much food and wealth that they don’t know what to do with them.
Inside life.
Some people have nothing and have to wait to scavenge on the items thrown away by others.

I looked ahead of me.
The Christmas themed park few meters away was glittering and busy with kids and adults having a fun time.
Laughing, playing and snacking on edible items.

I looked ahead at the Government house, a stone throw away.
The reality hit me.
Inside life.
Boys are perched on top of a refuse dump digging for items they could sell.
Less than a kilometer to the seat of government of an oil rich state.

Boys are scavenging for anything they can find in a dump.
Along the route the Governor’s convoy and other Vips ply.

Poverty residing side to side with wealth.
I shook my head and walked away.
I wondered if the parents of the dust boys have contravened the Child Rights Act of Nigeria.
Or if poverty has stripped them of all dignity.
And they are left with no option.
But to take part in the ultimate game of life.
The quest for survival.

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