Nigeria: Children's Day

Marakisia, Amara and Sadia hawking their wares in Hausawa Village.

Children in Nigeria will today join their counterparts across the world to mark the 2019 Children's Day. Every year, May 27th is set aside worldwide to celebrate children who are the future generation. Activities marking the day vary from one country to another but they are all aimed at drawing attention to the importance as well as the problems of this critical group in society.

We congratulate children in Nigeria on the occasion of Children's Day. Celebrations aside, this is a day to shine the light on the plight of children in Nigeria. Year in year out we talk about improving the lives of children but we don't seem to be making much progress in that regard. Till date, more than 10 states in the country are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act. The Act, which is an instrument formulated to ensure the general wellbeing of children, was adopted by Nigeria in 2003 and was passed into law at the federal level.

Even in states that have domesticated it, implementation is a problem. This importance of this law cannot be over-emphasised as it is aimed at checking violence against children, trafficking, child labour, early marriage and their right to education. It is most disheartening that despite calls by many persons, groups and donor agencies, many states have refused to domesticate the law, thus endangering the rights of the child. Speaking during last year's Children's Day celebration in Bauchi State, Chief of United Nations' Children Fund (UNICEF), Bauchi Field Office, Mr Bhanu Pathak said that states' failure to domesticate the Child Rights Act affected UNICEF's and other agencies' programmes on children, because there are no laws to back them up.

His warning however continues to fall on deaf ears. We urge states that have yet to domesticate this law to do so to secure the future of the children and boost their quality of life. All over the world, healthcare of children is of paramount importance but in Nigeria, it is still a challenge for them to access good medical care. While the government harps on immunization and there is free medical care for children under the age of five in some states, these are not enough as till date some children still die of preventable or treatable diseases. If we desire to preserve our children's lives, more should be done to ensure that they access good health care.

There is also the case of out-of school children. Nigeria has the world's highest number of out-of-school children. Government after government promised to reduce the number of children that are not in school and to boost enrolment but that has not been achieved. Only last week, Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu apologised to Nigerians in his valedictory speech over his inability to fulfil the promise to reduce the number of out-of-school children by half.

He said, "When I attend conferences outside the country and the issue of out-of-school children is being discussed, I feel embarrassed. It is a big mark of shame to me as a person and to us as a nation. Nigeria is the highest in the number of out-of-school children even though we are not known for poverty. We promised to reduce out-of-school children by half. I must apologise, we have failed in that. I'm hoping that the next minister will address it."

Going forward, we urge government to launch an emergency national program to eliminate this scourge of out of school children in the shortest possible time. It is mainly through education that we can tackle many associated social ills including kidnapping, insurgency, begging for alms and child marriage. Issues such as child labour and trafficking should also be looked into so that they can be reduced to the barest minimum. A general improvement in the economy will also help as the fate of children is inseparable from the financial status of their parents.

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