May 27: Catering for the Nigerian child


Sometimes it can look gloomy and hopeless. In Nigeria, the talk is always how kids and those to come after them will fare in a country so not in love with building for the future. As the country marked Children’s Day on Sunday, the stack reality of the Nigerian child came to the fore once more. We recall that the United Nations, UN had set aside November 20 of every year as the Universal Children’s Day to draw attention to issues that affect children. It was first marked in 1954. The day is celebrated on various dates in different countries. The occasion is also used to measure the progress the UN member countries made in addressing issues that concern the wellbeing of children such as health, feeding, education and other related matters.
As expected, the day is usually marked with activities for school children as well as speeches by government officials. This has become a routine. While it is true that the little investment made in education is for the future of the children, what is not in doubt is that we have not done enough. The percentage of our budget both at federal and state levels dedicated to education is abysmal. In the last several years it has been like that. Even the little budgeted is often stolen by contractors, civil servants and politicians.
While we wish Nigerian children and others the world over a happy celebration, we urge the government to use the occasion to address myriad of problems that can mar the future of Nigerian children. What comes to mind immediately is that government must reflect on development issues that centre on children, especially those contained in the UN Millennium Development Goals, MDGs and Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow in every culture, everything must be put in place by government to ensure that future is not mortgaged. Of course, just like the SDGs, health of our children is as important as their education.
The issue of raising good and responsible children that will be leaders of tomorrow should concern the family, the community, the school and the government. All of them must work together to bring up our future leaders. While it is the duty of parents to ensure that their children get quality education, at the same time, it is the duty of government to make sure that every Nigerian child gets qualitative basic education from primary school to junior secondary school at least. This we must acknowledge government is already doing. In fact, in some states, education is free up to senior secondary school and for payment of WAEC fees.
Also on health, It has been reported that about 1,200 children die every day in the country due to malnutrition. This represents 53 per cent of children’s deaths. It is sad that only 24 states out of 36 have domesticated the Child Rights Act. It is also not cheering that not all the 24 states that have domesticated the Act are committed to its enforcement. The country is also witnessing rising cases of child trafficking. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters, NAPTIP said that about two million persons, most of them children are trafficked in Nigeria annually.
Crimes committed against children are on the rise. Cases of child rape in the country rife. In most cities in Nigeria, child labour is a common feature. Most of the affected children hawk on major highways at a time they ought to be in school. Some Nigerian children have become victims of the raging insurgency in the North-East geo-political zone and the rising herdsmen menace in the North-central zone. Many live in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP camps.
As we mark this year’s Children’s Day, we call on government at all levels to map out measures to address the problems facing Nigerian children. To begin with, government must ensure that every Nigerian child is educated up to the level of basic education. It must also invest in the health of the Nigerian children. These among other ways are best of how government and the society can make the future of the country promising.

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