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Children’s Day 2010: what now?

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Since the world’s tiniest country – The Vatican – pioneered the celebration of Children’s Day, it soon assumed a worldwide dimension when the first International Children’s Day was held in Turkey on April 23rd 1920 in Turkey . The first Children’s Day organised by the International Union for Child Welfare was held in Geneva in 1955. From the 1970’s, it was adopted as an annual ritual in Nigeria .

May 27th every year was set aside as a special day for children aged between zero to 14 years when they are still in their formative years and supposedly totally dependent on adults for their everyday need.

On this day, school children take a breather from school work to engage in march pasts under the inspection of designated government officials at public arenas. It has also become a bonanza day for commercial outfits peddling fun and games which appeal to children.

As a result of our usual lack of focus on the significance of occasions such as this, the Nigerian Children’s Day anniversaries have turned into mere rituals. A day that is supposed to provide our nation with an opportunity to assess the condition of our children with a view to improving it is frittered away.

The questions we should be asking ourselves are: why is it that despite this annual ritual and the existence of youth departments in governments at the federal and state levels, the condition of Nigerian children continues to deteriorate as evident in the increase in the number of young people risking their lives hawking in the traffic in urban areas?

Why is it that the public school system has collapsed and parents are forced to cough out huge amounts of money to send their children to private schools in order to give them a fair chance at getting good education? Why is it that every year we record mass failures in West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO) and other school leaving and admission examinations? Why are the products of our educational system unemployable?

A great but hidden danger staring the nation in the face is the educational dichotomy being created by the collapse of the public school system. In the days past when we still had a sane educational system, everybody sent their children to prestigious public/missionary schools that offered high standard of education. But today, the trend is for the rich to send their children to expensive elite private schools.

As a result, there is a mass movement of “investors” into the private school venture, and the only thing that is elitist now is that most of these schools are charging unrealistic fees.

The danger is that in the near future, there will emerge a tiny group of well educated children from wealthy backgrounds as opposed to a large mass of poorly educated or uneducated children from poor backgrounds. The former will take up leadership positions and lord it over the latter, and this will be the gunpowder that will result in explosive social instability and high crime rates, which are already manifesting in violent robberies and kidnapping.

Unless we sit down and begin to implement all the universal protocols on the rights of the child with a view to protecting them from exploitation, child recruitment into armed conflicts, child prostitution and pornography, we may end up not as one of the most emerging 20 economies of the world by 2020 but one of the world’s hottest beds of criminality.

The job is not for governments alone. While the children who are privileged to be growing up under the cosy protection of their parents and guardians are celebrating and having fun, both the young and old should also remember that there are other less privileged children who are going to live in this society with the privileged ones in the future which they will share together.

No one can secure the future of his children when there are other children who have no one to secure theirs. They will be left with no other choice than to take matters into their own hands.
Meanwhile, happy Children’s Day to all our children.

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