Celebrating 2014 Children’s Day in Nigeria By: Charles Ikedikwa Soeze

Obviously, in 1954 the United Nation’s (UN) General Assembly recommended that all countries should set aside a Universal Children’s Day (UCD) to be observed as a day to celebrate children and draw attention to their problems. In spite of this, it is disappointing to state that since then the challenges facing our children especially in Africa and other third world countries is frightening and calls for quick solution. For example, the continued
abduction of school girls in Chibok, Borno State, North East of Nigeria.

Happily, the UN General Assembly recognized that children all over the World have rights that must be documented, adopted by major states, promoted, projected as well as enforced and subsequently adopted in 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the child, which addressed the rights of children and youths under 18 years of age. In 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the convention on the Rights of the child which covers in its 54 articles all the rights of children from healthcare to education to the freedom from exploitation and the right to hold opinion.

There is the popular saying “Morning shows the day, just as the child shows the man”. This
indicates why a day is set aside every year to evaluate progress made in efforts to promote, protect and project the rights of children. All over the World, children’s are usually
celebrated on the 27th of every May.

Celebrating children’s day take special forms in each member-country of the United Nations. For example, in Gambia, children take over the reins of government for this one day in the year, to expose them in the practice of governance. In other countries, children are sometimes given the opportunity to take over the television stations and consequently direct, produce and anchor programmes that show the major issues that affect them.

In the case of Nigeria, school children usually troop to various stadia, public places in towns and cities all over the country to engage in March past and listen to speeches from our leaders while some establishments participate sometimes by organising parties, excursions as well as study visits for students.

However, despite the fact that most member-states of the UN are signatories to the convention, the basic rights stated in this convention are still being violated with impunity in these countries that have adopted the convention. Children over the places are still being openly abused and neglected both at the family, community and governmental levels. However, Nigeria adopted May 27 of every year as its Children’s Day and has remained faithful and honest to the observance of the day. Furthermore, it is crystal and abundantly clear that children’s issue go far and above celebration of Children’s Day.

Apart from the celebration, there is the need to look at how children have fared before and after the passage of the Child Right Bill (CRB) that was passed into law by the National Assembly in May 2003. Nigeria, being a signatory to several international conventions on children, is obliged to take legislative, social and educative measures to further protect children from the following, physical or mental violence, neglect, or maltreatment while in the care of parents or guardians, employment that is likely to be hazardous to their health or interfere with their education and development, sexual exploitation and abuse among
others.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 215 million children are in hazardous work and that Africa is worst hit. The ILO celebrated the World-Day against
Child Labour 2010 events with a clear message to member-nation on the negative impact of child labour and the danger inherent in the slow pace of efforts by nations of the world to end the phenomenon. It was revealed by the ILO that the events were held in more than sixty (60) countries. It included governments, employers and workers, other United Nations Organisations and non-governmental organisations and high level panels who organised media events, awareness raising campaigns, cultural performances and other public events.

In Geneva, Switzerland where the global event, International Labour Conference took place, hundreds of local school were joined by the Conseiller of Etat, Mr. Charles Beer, ILO Officials and visiting conference delegates, who participated on a “Children’s Solidarity event” at the place des Nations (United Nations House)”.

Furthermore, the ILO Director General, Mr. Juan Somavia, used the occasion to paint the pathetic picture of hazardous conditions of many children around the world who were involved in child labour. In Africa, it was a pathetic story as Somavia stated that the situation was worrisome in Africa where the worst form of child labour takes place and more children were working in hazardous conditions. Somavia added that the World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) came at a critical juncture in the global campaign ending its worst forms by 2016.

At the WDACL, it was stated that what is needed is access to quality education for all children, at least, until the minimum age of employment, extending social protection that provides a buffer for families and enable them to keep all children, girls and boys in school, and productive employment for adults. In other words, with an integrated decent work approach and a decent work route out of poverty, children can realise their potential families and communities can enjoy better standards of living and greater stability.

In Nigeria, little efforts are being made by both government and organisations to reduce or eliminate the worst form of child abuse because we are deeply rooted in poverty, ignorance and cultural attitudes of the people. However, these efforts, in most cases are not backed by appropriate data to enable national authorities and the international communities to measure the nature and perhaps the extent of child labour in the country and identify areas where action is required to take it.

It is flabbergasting to say that in Nigeria like many other African countries, ILO policies are often violated, despite the fact that many countries of the world have developed statistical monitoring and information systems on child labour, often with the support of ILO’s Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC).

In a speech at the presentation of “The state of the world children 2002”, the then First Lady, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo (of blessed memory) said, “Many more children are still engaged in exploitative child labour, putting them at risk of human trafficking with ten Nigerian children daily passing through the Nigerian border into slavery in other lands,
and figures in respect of HIV/AIDS among Nigerian children are extremely alarming and it is getting worse by the day”.

According to her, “If you look at current statistics in the state of world children report, the situation of the Nigerian child in education, health and protection are particularly bad, when compared to some other poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa”.

It seems to me that the ugly development is strangulating children gradually out-of-existence. Economic down-turn or economic‘cuyoyo’ according to the late Dr. Tai Solarin, former Headmaster of Mayflower School has suddenly turned children into bread winners for many families. They can be seen in our streets hawking all sorts of wares, some begging alms, with forlorn hope of augmenting the poor earning of their financially weak parents. Street hawking has turned a lot of them into hopeless youths with a bleak future. The families among them are exposed at tender ages to sexual harassment and molestation. Others are sometimes rendered useless or in extreme cases lose their lives after being hit by reckless drivers.

Many first visitors to Nigeria are usually appalled at the number of children engaged in street hawking and begging on our roads, and the advent of sachet water popularly called “pure water” has increased the number greatly.

In order to proffer solutions to the above, there is the need for an apostle of accountability and probity in public service. In other words, we should preach and practice the gospel for the benefit of our children. In this connection, we should see our children as “Ethiopia Tikden” an Amharic expressing meaning “Ethiopia first”.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that our children suffer because many aides in Africa are victims of extreme flatters and sycophants whose only delight is to be at the corridors of power, lick, wash and watch the boots of our leaders and, in the process enrich themselves even to the level of stupidity and irresponsibility quite noticeable before the mass audience.

In the 1997 joint UNICEF and Federal Office of Statistic report on the progress of Nigerian children, it was stated that children in especially difficult situations made up the bulk of the domestic labour force. This is not astonishing in view of the increasing poverty that forced many families to take their children out of school and utilise their labour to add to the family income for survival.

In order to check abuses of the rights of children, state governments that are yet to adopt the Child Rights Act (CRA) should get their legislators to pass them into law in the state. It is my candid opinion that the Federal and all States Government should commence immediate enforcement of all the provisions of the law, including prosecuting and convicting those that flout the law.
Finally, for our children to develop properly and compete favourably among children from other countries and to enable Nigeria move forward in the right direction, we should
think clearly, correctly and scientifically which is the greatest of all powers that a man can possess.

Charles Ikedikwa Soeze, fhnr, fcida, fcai, fswca, cpae, son, emba, ksq, ghnr, chnr is a mass communication scholar from first degree to doctoral level and retired Assistant Director (Administration)/Head, Academic and Physical Planning (A&PP) of the Petroleum Training Institute, (PTI), Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria. (08036724193) charlessoeze@yahoo.ca