The International Children’s Day is a day set aside by countries to celebrate children. The day is celebrated on various dates in different countries. Nigeria celebrates children’s day every 27 May. The law in Nigeria has set the age of a child as 18 years or below. To every Nigerian child, I say, though belatedly, “happy children’s day.”This article is dedicated to all Nigerian children for keeping faith with their parents, guardians and the government. Celebrating children for who they are is not just sufficient. The celebration is to bring awareness to all children that they are our future and that we care for them. Children are indeed our heritage and we owe it a duty to nurture them.Children are not only important to our country. They are equally important to our Creator and they form an integral part of the family system. The Holy Scripture tells us that “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of themighty man, so are children of the youth.”
Children are all entitled to fundamental human rights as reflected in the 1989 International Human Rights Treaty. International organisations have been working with policy makers for good health care and education of children and to ensure that their rights are protected globally. You will recall the United Nation’s (UN’s) led initiative for the education of children on a global scale. Ban Ki-moon, then Sec Gen of the UN led initiative for the education of children. Firstly, he wants every child to be able to attend school by the year of our Lord 2015. Secondly, to improve the skill set acquired in the schools and finally, implementing policies regarding education to promote peace, respect and environmental concerns. Even the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 4 mandates all countries to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by the year 2030.” Quality education is a fundamental human right and it is indispensable for the achievement of sustainable development.
Today, most children in our society are disadvantaged and they cannot have access to quality education. On a daily basis, children face all sorts of challenges. It is most unfortunate that many children are ill-treated by those who are expected to take care of them. Children have experienced abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. They are used as labourers, immersed in armed conflict, living on the streets, suffering from differences be it religion, minority issues, and disabilities. The Child Rights Act prescribes punishment to parents who expose their children to various forms of abuse. Due to insecurity in most parts of the world and our country in particular, children are feeling the effect. But enforcement has always been the problem.
Nigerian children are in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps across the country.They are displaced because of insurgency, and most of them have suffered and are still suffering from physical and psychological trauma. When parents are displaced due largely to reasons bothering on insecurity, children will be also moved from their homes.
Children are the future of our country. But when many children are deprived of decent living, one can safely say there is an attack on the future of our country. For goodness sake, over ten million of Nigeria’s children are out of school while hundreds of thousands are living on the streets. If indeed we say that children are our heritage, then it is the responsibility of parents, guardians and state governments to encourage them. Those in government at state and local levels must not pretend that all is well with children living on our streets. Parents have the responsibility to take care of their children. But if parents are not responsible for their own children, they have denied their faith and such act of neglect, according to the Holy Scripture, is worse than an infidel. Doall children living on the streets ofthe most populous country in Africa belong to unbelievers? I don’t think so. Even in many cultures in Nigeria, there is no such status as illegitimate child. So why have some parents chosen to adopt the “fire and forget strategy” by abandoning their children after birth. Some of these parents will tell you they cannot cope with the expenses of providing for their children because the nation’s economy is bad. So immediately any child from these parents can walk, he or she is on the streets making a living by any means-legal or illegal. It is on the streets they pick all manner of habits. Then we all say, there is insecurity in the country. Some parents do not know where their children are currently residing. Neither do they know what their children do for a living. It is very sad. However, these parents expect their children to provide money for them to live on. What a terrible world? How then do we nurture our children? Parents must be aware of stages in the development of our children so that we do not expect too much or too little from them. Children must be encouraged to express their feelings and views on any subject matter. And their views and feelings must be respected.
Equally, the society expects children to respect, give recognition to, and honour their parents and those in constituted authority. This is very scriptural. Every child living under his or her parent’s roof must respond to, accept and adhere to the rules his or her parents have set as guidelines. Children must obey their parents. This is not a thing for one moment, but it is for a life time. Children need to give their parents and the elderly respect and honour at all times. It is only when this is done that one can say that we are building a nation. It is only when this is done that we can say without any fear of contradiction that we are building a nation.Let me draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela by saying that history will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children. Thank you!