By Bose Adebayo
Little Ayomide Coker had wished to become a medical doctor until her vision was rudely terminated by the untimely death of both her parents in a ghastly motor accident. She ended up with an aunt who rather than send her to school,Â gave her out as a house help to one of her friends who lives in Lagos.
At the age of 10, Ayomide became a notable face at some popular bus-stops in Lagos where she hawked sachet (pure) water everyday. She subsequently fell victim of sexual harassment by a street urchin and became pregnant in the process at the age of 12. And that was the end of her dream to become a doctor.
The popular claim thatÂ children are the hope and leaders of tomorrow may not apply to Ayomide considering this patheticÂ childhood experience. Sadly there are many children like her in the country who are being denied the love, care and educationalÂ training that can transform them into responsible and productive adults to overseeÂ the affairs of the nation in the nearest future.
But the good news is that some corporate organisations and individuals have continued to take up the challenge to ensure every child is brought up to have self-confidence and self-esteem.
This was the gesture demonstrated by the management and staff of Vanguard newspapers on Thursday May 20 under the auspices of the organisationâ€™s second edition of Childrenâ€™s Conference that drew children of all ages and from different schools and social backgrounds in the state. As usual, it turned out to be an educative and fun-filled affair for all participants.
Among the notable in attendance were wife of the Governor of Bauchi State, Hajia Abiodun Hauwa Isa-Yuguda and wife of the Lagos State governor, Mrs Abimbola Fashola who was ably represented by a director in the Ministry of Information and Strategic Planning, Mrs. Ayo Shamo.
In her address, Hajia Abiodun Hauwa Isa-Yuguda stressed the need for special assistance for children with disabilities, saying they must also enjoy the benefits of basic education. â€œInclusive education is a veritable tool in facilitating good social integration of children with disabilities in our society since it helps with good social skills,â€ she said.
She urged children to show love to their physically-challenged counterparts at all times, saying this was the only way they could share love with them and also make them feel like part of the society.
Vanguard Kiddies Editor, Aunty Funmi Ajumobi, described VanguardÂ as a child-friendly media outfit and the first in Nigeria to dedicate two-weekly colour pages and an eight-monthly pull-out colour pages to children and issues affecting them. â€œThis is part of our contribution to the growth of Nigerian children and our love for our great nation,â€ she noted.
Continuing she said: â€œToday, most child-friendly-companies have improved on that by organising Childrenâ€™s Day funfair and all sorts of activities to engage the children and give them some funâ€.
In line with this yearâ€™s theme: â€œNigerian Child, Africaâ€™s Prideâ€, Vanguard, she said believes that Childrenâ€™s Day should be a day that children should not only have fun but should also be taught to imbibe positive knowledge and values.Â â€œWe believe this will help them to be complete, well enlightened children, who are fit to compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
â€œVanguard believes in inculcating in them sound moral values, promoting conducive social co-existence and re-awakening the African culture. Re-branding must start from these little ones. This way, Nigeria is guaranteed a future of our dreams. I therefore wish all our participating children the best of an educative, enlightening and fun-filled time as they listen to our specially selected array of fathers and mothers who have made success stories of their lives in one field or another,â€Ajumobi submitted.
The representative of Mrs. Fashola urged children to live up to the conferenceâ€™s theme and listen to their parents. â€œYou should concentrate on your studies and avoid keeping bad companies because it is capable of corrupting good manners. Children must make meaningful use of their time so that they will not waste their lives. Above all, you must make God your Alpha and Omega and He will see you through all life challenges,â€ she admonished.