Beyond children’s parades and promises
Children Day, first proclaimed by the World Conference for the Wellbeing of Children in 1925 and then established universally in 1954, is celebrated each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare. International Children’s Day has also been set aside by the United Nations to celebrate and honour children across the world every May 27. (Today is one of such remarkable days). It is recognised and celebrated on various days in many countries around the world. The day was created as part of efforts of the UN to protect children from dangerous situations in the society and as well to give every child the opportunity to acquire formal education. Significantly, it was set aside to highlight the dignity of children and their need for love, care and respect, and to also instill in them a sense of patriotism and national pride.
(Regrettably), the Nigerian child is an endangered species. She or he usually bears the impact of poverty, family problems, peer pressure, failed educational system, social and religious conflicts as well as violence and terrorism. At an early age, some children are given in marriage, thereby exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases and infections, many have been conscripted into foot soldiers, are victims of sexual slavery and all sorts of emotional torture.
Child abuse, child trafficking, child battery and exploitation are common realities in our society. It is sad that despite the information age, some cultures and practices in our country still make children vulnerable, disadvantaged and prone to abuse. Under-aged marriage is the norm in the North and child labour is not peculiar to the South alone.
Many of our children grow with bitterness for their country. Having watched the insincerity of the government to the plight of the child in comparison to the news of child bravery in other climes, many would prefer to stay away and fulfill their potentials in a clime that encourages them to do so. The tale of the Chibok girls, the kidnap of students of Barbington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Lagos and the plight of Ese Oruru are miniature compared to the many cases of child abuse and neglect in the Nigerian society.
It is often said that children are the leaders of tomorrow. But in Nigeria, this is not so. Over the years, this global assertion has been proved to be just a mere expression in Nigeria. Yesterday’s children have watched how successive leaders have recycled themselves and their cronies to perpetually remain in power, and their families are STRATEGICALLY positioned at the corridor of powers too. And today’s children having lost hope in today’s crop of leadership are uncertain of any hope of becoming tomorrow’s leaders in their fatherland.
Beyond the promises and parades that characterise marking the children’s day, federal and state governments would have to prove that truly these children are the leaders of tomorrow. Since 2003 when the FEDERAL Government adopted the Child Rights Acts to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child, only about 24 of the 36 states of the federation have passed the Act. The other states have either disregarded it or paid lip service to the rights and responsibilities of the child in Nigeria, as well as child justice system. Little wonder, the legislative feat is yet to translate to improved legal protection for children in our country.
The Nigerian government has in the past committed blunders where it concerns her citizens, especially children. It is not too late for the government to begin to show empathy and commitment to things that will make these children have a sense of belonging in the Nigerian dream and delight in the thought of being a Nigerian.
Access to affordable qualitative education for children must not be compromised. Budgetary allocation to education and primary health care must be improved and well utilised for the purpose. Parents and teachers have the primary duty to train and enlighten children on what is right and what is wrong, how they can take care of themselves, how to protect themselves from violent persons and scenes, the need to avoid bad companies, influences and social vices among others.
Childhood is the foundation stage of the future. To this end, children deserve relevant and necessary attention. A child not well trained will sell-off the house that is built at the expense of child training. If Nigeria would be a world power and relevant among the comity of nations in the future, our children provide the ample opportunity for the realisation of that dream. The manner with which we treat them now is a definite pointer to the future that generations will live to cheer or regret. The future belongs to these children.
Adeosun, a communications specialist, writes from Ondo, Ondo State