In past time, recent times and time yet to be witnessed, the subject of poverty will always be an interesting and yet unending topic to debate on; this is as a result of an enumerable plethora of pieces available for digestion on the subject matter. But not being perturbed by this, the aim of this piece is to express what poverty entails, its causes, effects and how to alleviate and if possible uproot it totally from the society.
Stories of poor nutrition, low life expectancy, low quality of life, high susceptibility to sickness, illiteracy, low per capital income, inability of parents to perform their basic responsibilities to their children as expected and in magnified terms inability of government to embark on capital projects and many more are common headlines and trends on local, national and international news. The first point of reference when all these are mentioned is “Africa” which Nigeria is not exempted. This therefore prompts the question:
What is Poverty?
From the definition available in Wikipedia, poverty is the scarcity or the lack of a certain (variant) amount of material possessions or money, or refers to the lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs like shelter, food and clothing.
United Nations fundamentally defines poverty as the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It is the lack or unavailability of basic capacity to effectively participate in the society. It is the exclusion of individuals, communities, and households; it means powerlessness and insecurity. It means living in fragile or marginal environments, without access or availability to sanitation or clean water; it also means susceptibility to violence. It means not having fertile land to grow food for consumption, not having a job to earn a living, not having access to credit; not having a clinic or school to go to and also not having enough to clothe and feed a family.
World Bank views Poverty as the pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes the inability to acquire the necessary and basic goods and services necessary for survival which is caused as a result of low incomes. Poverty also encompasses poor access to sanitation and clean water, insufficient opportunity and capacity to better a person’s life, lack of voice, inadequate security (physical security), low levels of health and education.
Causes of Poverty
The causes of poverty is multi-dimensional, it could be caused by various and numerous factors depending majorly on the society that is being looked into. In this case, some of the factors responsible for poverty are discussed below:
- Poor Saving Culture:
It is commonly known today in our Nigerian society that the spending habits inherent is one seen to be exorbitant, spending above the earning capacity with the intent of Impressing relatives, friends, close associates and colleagues that they are well to do, this therefore keeps them busy spending and how to increase spending power forgetting the golden principle of saving as low as 10% of all income for unforeseen circumstance which results into long term accumulated wealth.
The issue of unemployment with low remuneration after month’s ending has become a topic of national debate. This can also be seen as a major cause of poverty, workers, and graduates of different profession likewise suffer and are poor due to inappropriate level of income attached with works here in Nigeria and that is if you get a job at the first place, leaving people especially the majority of people in the society poor and suffering as basic needs can no longer be met, not to talk of acquiring luxuries.
Corruption has come to be part of Nigerians legitimate identity; this is expressed in different forms and levels. The most prominent of them all is corruption existing in government parastatal by public office holders. Governance is now known for embezzlement of public funds and self aggrandizement at the detriment of the public welfare resulting to poverty.
Inequality can also be held accountable as a cause of poverty; the segregation of the society into social classes is a cause of poverty majorly because the favored group wants to retain wealth at the expense of the public growth and shared uniformed prosperity. And the unfortunate who find themselves on the less favorable side of the coin have a series of challenges to contend with among which poverty is their king.
- Education System and Lack to access to Education:
Education as encountered in Nigeria of 21st century is inadequate as compared to neighboring countries. Education in Nigeria can be summarized to be like the forceful feeding of a typical Nigerian baby with hot pap, by a typical Nigerian mother where you forcefully receive or learn and stressfully regurgitate what was learn on theoretical topics. This relates with poverty because the creativity of students to innovating new ideas from learning and practice of content taught is killed so giving rise to poverty from intellectual poverty. Another way to say this is the lack of succinct education to the various part of the country most especially the majority of North. Education is made expensive to the average person, with incessant industrial action by lecturers with the attribute of transferred aggression in victimization of students. Youths are tagged to be leaders of tomorrow with inadequate education, this only equates into unqualified workers that lacks adequate skills on the job summarily leading to poverty.
Effects of Poverty
The effects of poverty today are felt worldwide with outstanding expression of it in different forms. Almost half of the world’s population has witnessed this in one form or another, these effects includes but is not limited to the following:
v Poor health and high susceptibility to sickness:
The most horrible and most deadly sicknesses observed and attacked by man from past history till this day saw its display in poor and less developed societies. The argument here is poverty is a direct cause of ill health due to poor nutrition, health habits and lack of access to proper medical treatments. Lack of proper balance meal leads to improper growth and low immunity of the human body, since hunger is one of the parameters for measuring poverty, poverty therefore leads to high susceptibility to being sick and being malnourished.
Another major effect of poverty is high incidence of crime rate in areas or society where poverty is prominent. Due to lack of legitimate ways of earning money or a living, the public especially the high adventurous youth go into hideous crimes to keep up with financial needs and challenges which most times revolve round keeping up with friends and acquaintances.
In the same line, corruption is another bad effect of poverty on the society. This seeks to mean that, when poverty is witnessed in a particular area, that society suffers high level of corrupt practices. This is as a result of the breach in contract with norms like probity and integrity with the main goal of keeping up with the basic amenities of life like feeding, shelter and general wellbeing that are all embedded as basic needs of man, therefore people do everything possible to stay alive.
v Bad economy and insecurity
One of the biggest problems that is an effect of poverty in the society is retarded growth of the economy of poverty laden societies. This is ably achieved due to alluded effects of poor health and high susceptibility to sickness, crime, and corruption. In any society where this is their custom and tradition the economy is destined to be bad. This is because the collective security that is guaranteed is broken, and just as an unsecured house the society will be broken down by poverty.
How to reduce or eradicate poverty
As earlier noted poverty is a bad menace in the society, therefore for an effective and prompt solution to be possible in the society all hands must be on deck. Below are some recognised solutions to the sickness of poverty.
v Reduction of unemployment:
The basic reasons why poverty is witnessed is underemployment and unemployment of able bodied youth. This therefore results into idle minds. As it is common knowledge an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, people converge in different groups to interact and in doing this vice is birthed leading to crime and maturing to poverty. So, in order to capture this unemployment should be reduced both by job creation in governance through social services and in the private sector in wage pay from working hours.
v Introduction of minimum wage:
Another way of combating poverty is by proposition of minimum wage for workers. This is in effect as to check the challenge of low earnings on the side of the workers and eventually serve as a motivation for workers to enjoying their work. This also will help the worker work freely and creatively and by so doing the gap between the so rich and the poor will be reduced.
It is a common saying that education is power, this saying is also very right in this case. The easiest way of pulling a society through the ladder of growth and sustained development seen in prosperity and absolute wealth is education. You may say how is that? This is true because an educated and enlightened mind is a liberated mind. And a liberated mind will definitely seek for improvement in life generally, so principles of savings and wise spending won’t sound as unreasonable in their minds and ears.
v Diversification of the economy:
A diversified economy is the true picture of an optimum society. That is a society that is well utilised. This helps in solving the challenge of poverty because, since the most constant thing in life is change and since people can never express themselves in the same way, then everybody existing must offer his/her hand in the collective process of diversified economy (putting efforts in different investments like agriculture, textile and even crafts).
The problem of poverty that has grown to its mature stage today in the society did not just emerge at once, the environment was created for its favourable growth. The causes, effects and possible solutions were discussed above. Conclusively, we all are called to the job of working hand in hand in ensuring that this giant is defeated, assassinated and laid to rest from attacking our precious society, if our dream of achieving a better society is ever going to be achieved.