By Funmi Ajumobi
Every year since the launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 at the 70th United Nations General Assembly, every country has been working towards ensuring that the 17 goals and the 169 targets are met come 2030.
Knowing that great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children, a follow up theme to last year’s theme, when it emphasized that Africa children should be given accelerated protection, empowerment and equal opportunity, was launched, yesterday, as Africa celebrated her children, that no child must be left behind in Africa’s growth and development.
The Day of the African Child was celebrated with the theme, “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development”. African governments including Nigeria are told that there is need to mainstream children’s rights in all Agenda 2030 development programmes and children should be at the centre stage in their drive towards achieving sustainable economic development. What does this theme tell Nigeria’s government? It is not about launching and developing policies every year for the interest of the child. It is about implementation.
According to a UNICEF report, Over 17.5 million children can be categorized as orphaned and vulnerable. Large numbers of children, including some as young as five, flee poverty, abuse and family breakdown, and end up on the streets. Children living and working on the streets are more prone to illnesses, malnourishment, accidents, drug abuse, arrest, harassment and trafficking. Though there are NGO’s and move by the government to stop child trafficking, Nigeria is still a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for domestic service, prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour. As many as a quarter of Nigeria’s children aged 5-14 are involved in child labour.
In northern Nigeria, many of the street children are Almajiri – young children sent out from their homes to receive a traditional Koranic education, but whose teachers often make them beg or carry out menial jobs.
Over 380,000 children have been displaced by the insurgency in the north eastern states. Many children have been killed, maimed and abducted and it is still a daily occurrence.
It is still very visible that children from poorer households, those living in rural areas are at greater risk of violence.
Though Nigeria government is making effort in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, Nigeria Maternal Mortality Rate, MMR is still as high as 821 per 100,000 live births and Nigeria has been tagged as one of the most dangerous place to give birth according to statistics got during 18th General Membership Meeting on Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) in Brussels, Belgium in March 2018.
Though the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, said the country’s percentage of out of school children dropped from 10.5 percent to 8.6 percent in the last three years. Research still shows that Nigeria has the world’s highest number of out of school children in which sixty per cent are in northern Nigeria.
Despite committing to the achievement of 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, Education and Health sectors were allocated N15.7 billion and N57.15 billion, respectively, in 2018 budget while Ministry of Women Affairs where children have stakes got the lowest allocation of N6.23 billion.
My opinion is that, no country can achieve development with mouth service The nation’s children, deserve more than a lip service. They deserve more than outrage. They deserve real support, protection, and solid action. The mantra of ‘children who are our most valuable resource’ is almost never matched by actual funding.
Still in the mood of commemorating Day of the African Child, let everyone remember to let the child be at the centre stage.