Children’s Day celebration: The many challenges of Nigerian children
On November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), whilst the OAU Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRCW) in July 1990.Nigeria signed both International Instruments and had ratified them in 1991 and 2000 respectively. Both protocols reflect children as human beings and as subjects of their own rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) outlines the human rights to be respected and protected for every child under 18 years and requires that these rights be implemented.
Against this background, a draft of the Child Rights Bill aimed at principally enacting into Law in Nigeria the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the AU Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was prepared in the early 90s. But it is only after about 10 years with several Heads of Government and heated debates by the lawmakers that the Bill was eventually passed into Law by the National Assembly in July 2003.
It was assented to by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in September 2003, and promulgated as the Child Rights Act 2003. The Act is a legal document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of a child in Nigeria and provides for a system of child justice administration.With these developments, it is expected and mandatory that Nigerian children are well protected and a breach of such act attracts a punishment to the offenders. But the question is, even in these states where the bill has been passed, to what extent are children’s rights being protected and enforced?
This is the question begging for answer in the face of enormity of challenges confronting Nigerian children on a daily basis. Apart from the privileged ones, majority of Nigerian children are being faced with the problems of living on the streets, communal conflicts, deprivation, drug abuse, human trafficking, weaknesses of the juvenile justice system, child abuse, rape, violence poverty and many other social vices. According to a 2014 survey by the National Population Commission, with support from UNICEF and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, six out of 10 Nigerian children experience at least one of these forms of violence before they reach the age of 18. With this, it is obvious that it is not yet uhuru for Nigerian children even with passage of the Child Rights Acts being implemented by some states.But so shocking is the discovery that majority of Nigerian children do not even know what their rights are.
Nigerian Children Express Despondency, Complain Of Neglect, Abuse
By Henry Ekemezie, Ijeoma Thomas-Odia Olayemi Ajibulu and Kelechi Okoye
Even as Nigerian children prepare to celebrate Children’s Day tomorrow, some of them still hawk on the streets till late in the night. Others, especially the females, are being lured to secluded areas and raped. In the case of Gbolahan Quadri, 13, who stays at Ijegun, a suburb in Alimosho Council Area, Gbolahan claimed he has been hawking boiled groundnuts for his aunt since he was brought to Lagos from his village, where he resides with his grandmother.
“I was attending a school very close to where we live but unfortunately I had to stop and assist my aunt in her business, I was in nursery two when I stopped.“I attended school in the mornings and hawked in the afternoons till late into the night and, most times, I get punished for sleeping in the class. I am quite comfortable with what I do now, because seeing people of my age doing the same thing made me get used to it,” he said.Another child, Doyin Adesuji who hawks oranges along the same road told The Guardian that his parents also hawk. “It is the only way we can make ends meet, so who am I to refuse to hawk?”
“Because of the items we sell, which customers need mostly in the mornings and early afternoons, our guardians cannot enroll us in school as it would affect sale.”Eleven-year-old Seun Agbato also gave account of her horrific experience during hawking hours. She was abused at night but she just could not tell anyone.“I live with my relatives, one day I lost all the money from my sales of over N400. I was crying when one man saw me, asked why I was crying. I told him then he promised to give me the money, so I stopped crying.
“Before he gave me the money, he robbed my body and then told me to always come to him anytime. That incidence brought fear to me and I stopped going through that way ever since then. I have become extra careful with any money from my sales,” Seun said.Nine-year-old Precious Osas said that she would gladly live outside Nigeria if given the opportunity.
According to her: “The country is full of corruption and I don’t mind learning from other cultures and making comparison. I know and see a lot of children who practice corruption; they steal and lie. I hear of kidnappings, armed robbery and these things make me scared. My parents, however, teach me to be at the alert when I come across strangers and visitors and I should run away without saying a word to them. I urge President Muhammadu Buhari to try and stop corruption in the country.
Ladan Lukeman says he looks up to Aliko Dangote as his role model, “he is rich and has properties around and in my future I want to become a greater person and so I pray to God everyday to help me achieve the dream.”Lukeman, who is aware of his rights as a child, named one important aspect; right to education.
For the 10-year-old, my mummy told me that some strangers use juju and when they touch you, you follow them, so when a stranger ask me questions I don’t go close to the person and when he tries to give me anything, I will not accept. I would like to live abroad, because here we need light. If we have constant light, things will continue to progress especially in bakeries and factories where they spend a lot of money on diesel, which makes cost of bread high. Babayo Nana, a Primary 4 pupil of Parents Pride Private School, Gowon Estate said: “I am afraid of staying in Nigeria because they steal and kidnap children in our area. We also have children who lie and this is not good.
“My mummy has taught me not to take things from strangers and so when I meet anyone who offers me anything, I run away from them. Arioya Salawu, a 10-year-old pupil who says she is excited about the Children’s Day celebration, is asking government to help stop armed robbery, fighting and stealing which has become a norm in our environment.“I want the government to stop people from killing children. I see children who sag their trousers, smoke and kill themselves. I believe that if I become the president of Nigeria, I will do better than what Buhari is doing. I like Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for fixing most of the roads in Alimosho and also equipping the public schools, which have made children in my area go to school.
“The economy is bad. People use people for money rituals and I have seen it in the news. When I am sent on an errand, I see people who smoke and drink at corners, their heads must have been turned upside down and they will not know what they are doing. The smell from the smoke also affects me and so I run away from such people,” says Malik Amisu. He wants the government to fix bad roads as children get splashed with dirty water on their way to school.”
Mosope Lawani says she is not happy to be a Nigerian child.“I watch in the news story of kidnappings and stealing every time. I see children who stay in other blocks steal and lie and so my parents have promised that soon we will move into our own house where we wouldn’t have to see children do all these bad things. I urge government to build better houses for people to live in, and create jobs so that parents can take care of their children and give them healthy foods.
“I don’t want to live in Nigeria because of corruption,” says nine-year-old Joseph Abu. He said he wants government to ensure that there is security, because a lot of adults are involved in practices that endanger the lives of children. Miss Happiness Friday says the electricity problem has made sleeping most nights unbearable for her and other children in her neighbourhood.
“At night there is so much heat, so I want government to improve the light situation in the country.”Similarly, Seunmi Deborah, a nine-year-old student of Jifandos Holychild School, Liberty Estate, Idimu Lagos noted that child rights include freedom of a child to express himself or herself in the society, the right to good education and the right to live. Deborah also advised Nigerian children to have respect for constituted authorities. “Children in all parts of Nigeria should respect their parents, teachers, and elderly people in the society”.
Eniola Adewale, opined that child rights are the things the society should allow the children to do and that the government is implementing the child rights by providing free primary education to children across the country. He also encouraged Nigerian parents to implement these rights by sending their wards or children to school and also advised all children to be studious and be the best in all they do because they are the leaders of tomorrow.
Yusuf Quadri, a 14-year-old boy said child rights are things children deserve in a society and he further posited that children should report any cases of infringements on their rights especially child abuse to the higher authority. “Children should report child abuse cases to the community leaders or the government through the police station.” Yusuf also advised Nigerians to send the children living with them to school because education is power.Ahmed Mariam, a 14-year-old girl referred to Child Rights as the rights bestowed on children by their parents, society and the government. In her opinion, child rights are not being implemented well in Nigeria
“ A lot of parents abandon their children, many children are not sent to schools, children are being abused on a daily basis and the Child Rights is being infringed upon”.She further advised Nigerians to stop child abuse or child labour so as to build good children who will become the leaders of tomorrow. “Protect the children because it is your duty to protect us and it is our right to be protected and those people abusing children should stop before the government or those fighting for human and child rights get hold of them.”
Opeyemi Ayomide, a 15-year-old girl revealed that Child Rights include freedom from torture, right to life, right to education, freedom from slavery and right to be protected and maintained. She also advised Nigerian children who are not attending schools to consider education “Some children don’t go to school because they help their parents with their businesses so they shouldn’t feel bad, but they should try to convince their parents or guardians to send them to school”.The principal of Jifandos Holychild School, Liberty Estate, Idimu Lagos, Mrs Oremiyi Taiwo commended the Lagos State government for implementing the child right laws in the state.
“Child Right Laws are being implemented here in Lagos State, because child abuse is being fought and the government has encouraged children to go to school with its free education programme, for those who can not afford to send their kids to private schools.”She further discouraged child abuse in the country, advising children to know their rights and report any cases of infringement on their rights to higher authorities
“Some people take their nieces from the village with the promise that they would send them to school only to get back to the city to use them for hard labour. Some even rape children living with them. The society should help to stop these occurrences and stop being wicked to children.”Also speaking about the forthcoming children’s day, the headmistress of Lifetree Schools, Ebute-Metta, Lagos, Mrs Nancy Onuegbu, told The Guardian that children are the future, so they have to be celebrated, recognised and given their rights even when we think they don’t know these rights.
“Every Children’s Day, I look forward to see the children being free to express themselves and enjoy their day. Just like a bride that looks forward to her wedding day, every child should be made to look forward to the Children’s Day celebration”. She added that some parents use remarks like “during our days, we used to farm, but they forget that times have changed. Therefore, we should move along with the tide.
“The Children’s day avails a child an opportunity to meet with people from other schools, religion, families, ethnic groups, share ideas, make new friends and learn new things because children learn from what they see.Children shouldn’t be limited in any way. You’ll be surprised at what your child can learn by being exposed to certain things and certain environment. “All we have to do is to guide them aright. Parents should take their kids out, no matter how tight their schedules are. It doesn’t have to be expensive. The intent not the content matters a lot. The children need to feel important and needed in the society. While we are it, we shouldn’t forget to tell them what we expect of them as children.
“Some states don’t think it is important to implement the Child Rights Act for reasons best known to them, but it is important because as adults, we have our rights and wouldn’t want anyone to trample on them. The children too have theirs. A child has the right to be free from all types of abuse. You don’t talk to a child in any manner. Those years are gone when children are spanked at every slight provocation.
“A lot has to be done by government to improve the lot of the Nigerian children. Quality educational facilities that are accessible and affordable must be put in place. Every basic thing a child needs should be provided by the government free of charge. That is what is obtainable in more developed climes. Older people are cared for, children too are supposed to be cared for because they are all dependent.
Also Emilia Igbenedion, a teacher at Glolight International School, Port-Harcourt, said she looks forward to celebrating every child on Children’s Day. She also said that parents should ensure that every child is educated. “When a child is educated, he/she is placed in a very strategic position to make it in life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formal. Education exposes a child to things that will help him/her become a better adult in the future”.
“Education doesn’t start or end with building schools and installing educational facilities. Presently in Rivers state, the government has the best schools but it shouldn’t end there. Equipping the schools with qualified teachers, training and re-training the ones that are already in the system are also important. Again, if there are good schools and nobody attends them, what is the benefit? The government should as a matter of urgency, enact laws that will make it criminal for any child who is within the school age to stay at home or be seen roaming the streets while other children are at school.Parents should again play their role by bringing the kids early to school and ensuring that they assist the children with their homework. The teacher cannot do everything alone.“Lastly, parents should take their kids out on their special day. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate one. Anything that parents can do to make their children feel special should be done. It’s their day after all!
Ondo Children Demand More Care From Govt, Society
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure
DESPITE the efforts by governments around the world in collaboration with other international organisations to ensure that the rights of every child are protected, more is still left to be desired in Ondo State as the children are subjected to series of violence. The popular Oba Adesida Market in Akure metropolis, the capital city of Ondo State, is the haven of child abuse in the state. This is where children are publicly subjected to all forms of violence unhindered.Most of the hawkers in the ever-busy dual carriage road are children between the ages of eight to 15 years.
At every five metres walk and junction, a child is either seen hawking; a cluster of children gather to form mobile stalls selling vegetables, cassava balls, popularly known as “kolobe,” raw pap, sachet water, fruits, kerosene, just to mention a few.The gory sights and endlessly odd circumstances which the minors are subjected to do not only deprive them of their survival, development, protection and participation rights as stated expressly in the Child Rights Act, but also dehumanize the young Nigerians.
There was a nine-year-old boy, Taiwo Adeyemi, with a bag of sachet water on his head, running after taxis to sell his product to passengers and commuters, who ply the road. According to him, he always hawk the product alongside his cousins whenever they close from school in the afternoon. Adeyemi stays with his uncle in the city and has to support the family for a livelihood. He revealed that his uncle’s wife makes him and her own children to hawk different products ranging from sachet water, plantain chips, fruits and other edibles in other to support the family.
Two brothers, Godwin Sunday (11) and Valentine Sunday (9), who had been hawking since morning, said their school authorities drove them home for their parents’ inability to pay their N8500 tuition. They are in Primary 5 and Primary 3 respectively in one of the public schools. Godwin told The Guardian that he wanted to be the President of Nigeria. He revealed that their mother was the only one taking care of them since their father abandoned them and ran away to unknown destination.
Mentoring his younger brother who carried bunches of broom on his head for sale, he said, “If I don’t sell my coconut and my brother sells his own broom, we will find it difficult to eat. We are selling all these to support our mummy who is a petty trader.”Reacting to the fact that the government and society have some responsibilities towards them, they said government has never given them any money or food. “It is our mummy that always prepares our food, pays our school fees and give us small money.”
Another teenager, a JSS3 student of one of the most popular public secondary schools in the metropolis, though without a tray, was spotted loitering on the overhead bridge in Oja-Oba, watching the time on a handset he was holding. When quizzed, he recounted that he was waiting for his younger sister who had gone into the market with her own handset and a tray of vegetables for sale, saying they have a specific time to meet and go back home.
He dispelled the dangers involved in minors hawking in the city, saying, “I am not a small boy, I know everywhere around here because I have been selling since I was very small. Most children in the neighbourhood do it to help their parents.The teenager, who claimed he was 17 years though never looked that age, added that as young as his sister is, about 12, she too knows the nooks and crannies of the capital city, revealing that they have a lot of customers that buy vegetables from them.
To him, Children’s Day is all about march pass parade where school children across the metropolis gather once again to felicitate and have fun, he never believed that the day presses for more concessional rights for children.Whereas, the children knew that their was government but they were not aware of Child Rights Act, expressing doubts about the provisions for their survival, development, protection and participation rights.
“If we have all these rights like you said, why then are we suffering? Why is it that many of us, our parents live in poor houses? Why is it that we can’t just sit down and eat and don’t have to work for our food? Why then is it that our daddy and mummy cannot pay our school fees and government sends us home?”
At the forefront of the campaign against child violence is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which always advocates that government at all levels must put an end to violence against children in the country, imploring them to adopt Child Rights Act across the federation.
Taraba Children Want Their Schools Fenced
From Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
Speaking on Children’s expectations as they celebrate Children’s Day, a 15-year-old student of the Government College in Jalingo, Nathaniel Noah, said his desire is for the government to give more attention to public schools in the state.
On the Child Rights Act, he denied ever hearing of such stating that, “as for me, this is the first time I am hearing of this. But since you said it is a law designed to protect children, I think there is need for government to commence its implementation for our sake.”
Apart from his quest for government to give more attention to public schools, he also stressed on the need for prompt payment of teachers salaries so as to put hold to the incessant strike that have bedeviled public schools in the state.Most of the children who are opportune to be in classrooms, who bared their minds have divergent opinions on what they want the government to make available to them.
While some of them are of the view that government should fence their schools so as to protect them from any form of attacks, some stressed the need for the government to make education fre in order to give every child an opportunity to attend.Citing the adoptions of the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls, Joy Ekpeyong said: “Left for me, the only area I will call on government is to fence our schools, because we don’t want to be kidnapped.
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