With mental health awareness gaining more prominence over the last decade, it is imperative that every section of the society be given attention, and ultimately, catered for.
When people think of mental health or mental disorders, what comes to mind is adults dealing with some form of mental illness or another, and little or no attention is paid to children and adolescents.
Our #BellaNaijaWCW this week Dr. Aishatu Abubakar-Abdullateef is contributing her quota to finding and tackling psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents, especially street children in Northern Nigeria – popularly known as Almajiris.
Almajiris are children and adolescents sent to study in Islamic schools, far away from their homes, by their parents, under the care of Muslim scholars; some as little as 3 years old.
Over the years, there has been a decline in the capacity of the scholars to cater for the children and they end up in streets begging for alms/food or doing menial jobs to survive, increasing their risk for physical and mental disorders.
Aishatu holds a medical degree and an M.Sc. in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) from the MacArthur Foundation funded Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, University of Ibadan.
She is a researcher, whose work provides better insight into tackling mental health challenges children and adolescents face.
Aishatu has done some work on school-based mental health in Northern Nigeria educating them on the promotion of child mental health but her main focus is on Almajiris.
She’s also advocating for the rights of these street children, driven by a desire to give every child equal opportunities to achieve their potentials.
Aishatu works at the Department of Psychiatry at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, researching, teaching medical students, providing clinical services, and mentoring younger colleagues.
According to the results of one of Aishatu’s research projects, “Psychiatric disorders are more prevalent among Almajiris and public primary school pupils in Northwest Nigeria than found in other prevalence studies with a significantly higher rate among the Almajiris.”
More work needs to be done to give our children a better life, and Aishatu, a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow is contributing her expertise to ensuring that this is done properly, armed with relevant data to work with.