By Toba Adedeji
On the 22nd of May 2020, I was in a hospital on a visit to a friend who was admitted over an illness. In the ward where my friend was admitted, there was a woman who just gave birth to a newborn baby. The husband was basking in the euphoria of sighting a newborn child not thinking of the bills he would pay.
Relatives, well-wishers and nurses all rallied around the mother and the child professing care. Celebration rented the ward of the hospital like dews of Mount Hermon. The faces of all that stood by the sides of the bed glowed like one who won raffle draw. There was pride in the voices of all of them because of the child.
While enjoying the scene at the hospital, my phone rang and it turned out to be a call from one of my friend.
Me: Hello! Ismoo
Ismoo: (Mature voice) How far na?
Me: When are you returning my flash drive?
Ismoo: I will return it on Wednesday.
Me: Won’t you go to work that day ?
Ismoo: That day na children’s day now, public holiday…
Me: Are you a child?
Ismoo: We are a child to our parent…
I burst into laughter and I bounced the call. My friend has cracked my ribs for that spontaneous, humorous response.
It was then that it dawned on me that 27th of May is another children’s day celebration. At that moment, several thoughts engulfed my mind and I was bittered because several maltreatments and infringement of rights of children I have seen around my localities and read about. Constantly, we infringe on the rights of children and we claim we are protecting and building them for posterity.
At birth, we are happy to welcome a newborn baby (child) to this callous Nigeria, we care for them as if we can keep the status quo but time always reveals that which is in our heart that children rights are never a priority.
Everything that concerns children in this country is held as frivolity. A poet, Robert Frost, gave a quote which I reframed as this, “If your goal is for three months, plant maize. If your goal is for five years, plant trees but if your goal is for a lifetime, invest in children”. This is nought but a sad reality for us to embrace.
We never invest in our children, yet we all believe in a cliché, “Nigeria go better”. Those who will make it better are the ones that we do not take good care of today. They are the ones that would have opened the wind gate of abuse and immoralities to blow upon them irreverently.
Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi Adeyeye in his address to the children that visited his palace during the 2019 Children’s day celebration said, “This throne of Oduduwa belongs to the children.” It is commendable and the monarch has a respect for them.
But, what of those children that died while they were an infant and those that have been abused who are now held captive in the cage of depression. We are not even investing in them, rather, we are making this country unworthy for them to live.
At age 13, Ese Oruru was abducted in Bayelsa in 2015 by Yinusa Dahiru, and religion was forced on her. In 2018, Ibrahim was sodomised by his class teacher, Mr Peter Olayiwola in Yewa south, Ogun State. Felicity was given out by her parent in exchange for food in Edo State in 2018. Juliet, a 16-year-old was raped by a pastor and his son in Calabar. Damilola who was a 14-year-old was raped for over six months by his biological father in Osun State. Alhaji Afeez Shonibare chained his daughter of 15-years-old for about 12weeks tagging her that she was a witch.
These are only a few of thousands of cases involving infringement of child’s rights in this country which were highlighted above.
Six out of ten children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18 with half experiencing physical violence.
On education, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 2018, gave a report that revealed how endangered we are in this country. The report indicated that, in Nigeria, about 10.5 million children are not in school even though primary education is officially free and compulsory.
The report read, “Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 per cent of 6-11 years old regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 per cent of children, aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.”
“In the north of the country, the picture Is even bleaker, with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent. Getting out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge.
Gender, like geography and poverty, is an important factor in the pattern of educational marginalization. States in the north-east and north-west have female primary net attendance with the rate of 47.7 per cent and 47.3 per cent, respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school. The educational deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance informal education, especially for girls.”
The educational deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance informal education, especially for girls.
In north-eastern Nigeria, 2.8 million children are in need of education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected states (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa). In these States, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed with another 1,392 damaged but repairable.”
Southwest states also contribute to the figure of 10.5 million out-of-school children. But, it’s not on high like the other geopolitical zones. Thanks to Awolowo for that.
Awolowo influenced Southwestern states to a very large extent on the importance of education for the child. And that Awolowo’s legacy is still standing the test of time.
Although, the legacy is suffering set back after the demise of Obafemi Awolowo which reflected in the song of a popular juju master, King Sunny Ade. “Awowólò ti kú, owó ile-ìwé ti won, e ma kan mi ní ìbàdí, e jen lo kósé. (— meaning: Awolowo is dead, school expenses is on high, I can’t harm myself, let me get my children out of school to learn from artisans).
A scenario of quality of education in the southwest state got me to tangle with my friend about the comment of the Commissioner of Education, Mr Omotunde Young, under the administration Osun State Rauf Aregbesola.
Young said, “Osun State schools were run like a zoo before the emergence of Aregbesola. “
My friend opined that “Aregbesola mode of running Osun State schools will produce students like Senator Ademola Adeleke because of the quality of education. But at least Adegboyega Oyetola is trying his possible best give education a befitting colour in that state now.”
He noted that “What quality of education will a teacher that is not been paid for a month give to a child no matter the environment of learning? “
Many of the political office holders, directors of agencies, chairman of parastatals, Professors and others benefited from the Nigerian’s policy of free education but what will the coming generation benefit from the office that free education has helped you attained?
Until we change our modus operandi in this nation on the care for children from cultural mysticism to that which will serve the country right in all strata, then, we are just like a groundnut farmer planting on squirrel’s land.
Why do we lie to our children about their future when we are not building new schools? Why do we make them contend for their right? Why do government at all levels not sensitive to those things that will develop them? Why do our law enforcement agencies doing less to nothing in protecting their dignity? Why do parents, guardians and society not being fair to children? Why are policies not enough to tackle challenges facing children? Why is our constitution so weak to defend our children? Why is our society still holding onto a primitive mindset in the upbringing of a child? Why is our judiciary finding it hard to chastise offenders who want to extinguish the blazing love, obedience and care in our children?
Nigerian children have right to survival and development, name, association and peaceful assembly, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, private life and family, freedom of movement, freedom from discrimination, the dignity of the child, leisure, recreation and cultural activities, health and health services, parental care, protection and maintenance, free compulsory and universal primary education, and the unborn child to protection against harm.
We may not value those things we need to beam the light of attention on until we get to the future and realize that those qualities like care, love and obedience that ought to make a man whole have been killed a long time ago.
Until we do the needful, children’s day celebration in Nigeria is needless in the coming years.
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