It is another May 27 Children’s Day celebration in Nigeria. To many children, it is going to be another public holiday. For any person involved in taking care of children daily especially at the school level, it will be a time to snatch a shut eye and take time off school work. Government officials, especially those at the Ministries of Education and Women Affairs would likely call press conferences or organise seminars and invite children living in the rural areas to the cities. They would likely read and reel off this speech and that, telling the world that children have really suffered, and have experienced great deprivations. Some of the speeches would proffer a way forward while others would not. And to many event planners, they would cash in, organising children’s event where children especially those who can afford the price in the urban centers can come and have fun.
As we celebrate another Children’s Day, the question we should ask ourselves is this: Where are the abducted Chibok girls? If they are not among the rescued women and children by the Nigerian military, what is the fate of the total number of internally displaced children in the North-East who lack educational and health facilities due to the insurgency? What about those children who are in rural areas without effective educational and health facilities, those in orphanage homes, those children workers/hawkers on the streets as conductors, scavengers, beggars, and hawkers? Also, what is the state of those children who have been abandoned by their parents because they had been indicted as witches and wizards especially in Akwa Ibom State, and those who have been raped or have suffered one form of sexual violence or another and the physically challenged children in the society?
Why is the second goal of the Millennium Development goals still not achievable in this country that talks about achieving universal primary education and which targets ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education? Although Nigeria had made little progress based on net enrolment where six out of every 10 eligible children are now in school, there are still very many disadvantaged groups that suffer exclusion from the core of government policies geared towards alleviating the lot of children in the country.
This goal, the attainment of universal primary education for children, among other MDGs is supposed to be achieved in 2015. However, with just less than a few months to the end of 2015, there are still many children of school age who are seen on the streets during school hours hawking or working as bus conductors or scavengers, not to mention those in the rural areas who are not going to school particularly with the effects of the insurgency in the North-East that has deprived a lot of children the benefits of education.
This time round, we ask for an end to those long speeches, and those promises that always get made only to be broken. We must have a heart and realise that when we make these speeches, we are making them to children who qualify to be our children as well. It is time for action. Government and other concerned agencies need to make efforts to take some children off the streets, make better provision in terms of educational and health facilities in achieving the MDG especially for rural children and displaced children in the north. There should be provision for rehabilitation centres for internally displaced children, rescued children from kidnapped territories in the North-East, children who have been raped or sexually abused, accused of possessing witchcraft powers, neglected or who have suffered one form of psychological problem or physically challenged. Children must be equipped with knowledge that will make them to have high self-esteem and to be well integrated into the society without suffering from inferiority complex.
It is time to review existing infrastructure that have been provided in the past for children’s well-being such as education, health and other facilities so as to ascertain if these structures are still functioning and serving the purpose for their provision.
Today’s Children’s Day celebration should be a day that government (Ministry of Education and Ministry of Women Affairs) show Nigerians what they have done for children. It should be a day that the voice of the physically challenged children, internally displaced children and children who have suffered one form of violence is heard. It should be a day we take further steps in achieving the MDG.
Also, civil society groups especially those working in the areas of children welfare should give detailed reports of how their activities for the year have impacted positively on the well-being of children and how they have supported other children who have suffered one form of molestation and exploitation or another.
Children’s Day celebration should be a platform that brings children from rural and urban areas, different backgrounds, the rich, poor, schoolchildren and out-of-school children, physically challenged, able children, internally displaced children, victims of rape, kidnapped and the likes together to learn and share knowledge concerning issues that affect them and also integrate them as one unique entity for human capital development.
It is time for the abducted Chibok girls to be brought back home quickly. It is time to take some children off the streets. It is time to provide basic amenities for internally displaced children. It is time to give a voice to the physically challenged children and to provide homes to psychological traumatised children in Akwa Ibom State who have been abandoned to their fate because they had been accused of possessing witchcraft powers. It is time to improve on the general wellbeing of all the children in this country and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals number 2.
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