By Ebunoluwa Sessou, Florence Amagiya and Elizabeth Uwandu
When baby Tire was born three months ago, there was enthusiasm. Everybody was happy. Even the baby herself felt the joy. Her mother was always there for her. When she cries, her mother was there to cuddle her. From cradle, she could experience the love. Mummy was always around to take care of her and attend to her needs.
For her, the poem, “Who sat and watched my infant head When sleeping on my cradle bed, And tears of sweet affection shed? My Mother”, comes freely as the day goes by.
Unfortunately, baby Tire could no longer get the attention of her mother. It is because; her mother had to resume work after three months of her maternity leave.
Tire was now left in the care of the crèche manager and the house help. She stays in the crèche for nine hours and then in the hands of the house help for six hours. So, between 7 am and 9 pm, baby Tire is never with her mother.
She lives her life depending on external forces. She only feels the touch of her mother between 10pm and 6am. This is the story of an average Nigerian child.
This scenario simply pictured that a Nigerian child suffers quality parenting care.
Whereas the relationship that is supposed to exist between the child and the mother as described by Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, Nigeria Sharon Oladiji, is such that is embeded with love and care.
Speaking in a phone interview with WW, Oladiji explained that, “There are mothers and there are mothers. There are mothers who give birth to children and abandon them. There are mothers that give birth to children and do not care for the child. There are mothers that do not have the capacity to take care of the child. And there are mothers who are from very poor community that are illiterate that do not know what it takes to take care of a child and we have good mothers, kind mothers who will do anything to raise their children and everything we are talking about start from the beginning.
“For me, we have seen lots of mothers who are less concerned about their children. I have a mother that taught me everything as a child. Every mother should ensure that she becomes good mother to her child. Every mother should aspire to be a role model to her child.
“Although, we know that every mother cannot total care due to the situation at hand. Or, how do you explain a woman who gives birth to a child and yet throw the her away not knowing what would happen to that child?
Unfortunately, children are not given quality time and care and it is a big issue. This affected the up bring of the child. Today, there are cases of suicide attempts, depression, drug abuse, and irrational behaviour among children.
Perhaps, from cradle, the life of a child is dependent on whether she is raised in a conducive or unconducive environment. It also depends on whether the child is raised within a loving or hostile environment.
According to the Child Protection Specialist, whatever children see affect them. “Some of the things around affect the child. Some of the things that happen in the family are generational”, she said
She explained that, a child that is raised by a single parent already made up his or her mind that it is not necessary to have both parents around you.
“What children are faced with has a longtime effect in making up that they would become tomorrow. Any child from a loving family cannot behave irrational and any child from a dysfunctional family cannot behave otherwise. The best thing to do is to make sure we raise our children in a loving and conducive environment.
“As mother, we must ensure that we are re-oriented to be able to take care of our children. We should make up our minds to raise these children better. We must understand our children. Today’s children should be empowered. Every woman should be empowered.
“Women should empower themselves. Women have all the capacity, potentials therefore they must make use of their potentials and bring the best out of their children. We should not emotionally abuse them.
“We must be able to understand each child. Some mothers abuse their children emotionally. Some mother transfer aggression on their children, it is very wrong. I am talking to women and every caregiver. How you will rise your children depend on your environment. Some of us leave our children in the care of the so called god-pastors. No one should be able to correct our children more than us”, she advised.
One of the keynotes for this year children’s day is the ability to nurture of our children very well and make the best out of them. This assertion was supported by the child specialist.
Millions of children, many of whom are unaccompanied or separated from their families are being displaced by armed conflict. These children are at a high risk of grave violations in their environment.
Violence against children
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, “The right of children to protection from violence is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and yet still one billion children experience some form of emotional, physical or sexual violence every year; and one child dies from violence every five minutes.
Violence against children knows no boundaries of culture, class or education. It takes place against children in institutions, in schools, and at home. Peer violence is also a concern, as is the growth in cyber-bullying.
Children exposed to violence live in isolation, loneliness and fear, not knowing where to turn for help, especially when the perpetrator is someone close. Children’s gender, disability, poverty, nationality or religious origin may all increase the risk of violence with the youngest being especially vulnerable as they are less able to speak up and seek support.
State of the World’s Children
Every child has the right to health, education and protection, and every society has a stake in expanding children’s opportunities in life. Yet, around the world, millions of children are denied a fair chance for no reason other than the country, gender or circumstances into which they are born.
The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the CRC is inherent to human dignity and harmonious development of every child.
Children’s rights includes their right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child’s civil rights, and freedom. The Right to a Stable, Loving and Nurturing Environment. The Right to Healthcare and Nutrition. The Right to Clean Water, Electrical Power, and Safe Environment. The Right to a Quality Education. The Right to Equal Opportunities. The Right to Guidance from a Caring Adult are all what the child should enjoy.
In Nigeria signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, and with support from the UNICEF, took steps to domesticate the UNCRC into a national law, the Child Rights Act 2003. The Act consolidated all laws (including national and international laws) relating to children into a single piece of legislation that specified the rights and responsibilities of children, as well as the duties and obligations of government, parents and other authorities, organizations and bodies towards children. The Act defines a child as one who has not attained the age of 18 years, and the best interests of such a child shall remain paramount in all considerations. The Act also provides that a child shall be given such protection and care as is necessary for his or her wellbeing, and retain the right to survival and development and to a name and nationality at birth.
“While celebrating Children’s Day, we must look ahead to the future of childhood in this country, and re-commit to urgent, specific actions to protect the rights of every child, now, and in future generations.”
For founder, Children and the Environment, CATE foundation, Adesola Alamutun, said “that it does not matter if both parents were working class, provided both are able to manage their time.
Her words, “Both of my parents worked full time and I don’t believe that it had any negative effect on me. Children must go to school and get good education.
“I also grew up having 2 maids, a cook and steward at any point in time which was very helpful for my parents. And at no point in time did I feel neglected by my parents.
“It’s up to the parents to make time out for their children -they might need to get home early for homework and lunch and go back to work and take time out at weekends to spend time together. Sometimes my father came home early and then went back to work.” She said.
The child advocate added that rather than have a home without adequate capacity, parents should make out time to visit their children schools.
According to environmentalist, “Parents should find time to go to schools of their children and discuss their wellbeing and welfare issues with their teachers
“Teachers can also check up homes of children that are not performing properly or have behavioural problems.
She noted that no parent should be idle. I don’t believe that any adult should be idle and unproductive just because you have children. Children should be encouraged to work as early as possible for instance, Bob a Job during school holidays or even at weekends after their homework. As parenting in today’s world has its challenges, especially with the disruptions of the workplace and other commitments parents are involved with.” she explained.
A parent and founder, Total ChildwithauntyTk initiative, said, “It was a shame that working class parents have delegated their roles to teachers and house helps. The childcare personnel reiterated that, “Unfortunately parenting cannot be delegated.
“Today’s parents no longer spend time with their children; they are busy working hard to make ends meet. Making money is good, but factual truth remains being a parent is not only about bills payment, buying gift or touring round the world.
“Caregivers, internet, Tv and schools can only try within their limited time spent with the child, but quality timing and real training comes from the parents.
“Unfortunately today’s parents have left their children into the hands of outside world to teach and shape them, forgetting the world have their different undefined and wrong views, behavior and ideologies
“School and teachers are really trying, but time restriction has drawn the limit. House maid will do better with the chores but little or nothing in modeling good character suitable for a child to pattern after
Today’s parents are leaving out this vacuum unfilled
“Correction of wrong views, giving a child identity; modeling good character, monitoring child s growth among others should fill up this vacuum. Unfortunately parenting cannot be delegated”, she said.
Buttressing the point, Founder, Moncoeur Global Concept, Francisca Okwulehie reiterated that no matter the engagement of parents, spending quality time cannot be over-emphasised
She said that, “Parenting in today’s world has its challenges, especially with the disruptions of the workplace and other commitments parents are involved with.
“As an educator and one who spends ample time with young people, I have come to discover that most kids who lack parental availability suffer this because their parents do not create time for them.
“Due to the busy schedules of these parents, they tend to forget to create time for their children in their schedules. It is not just about providing for their wards, it knows what these children do in their absence and how they manage the resources they make available to them.
“The maids or helpers cannot be parent oriented enough, to know what the children need or should do.
Absence of parental guidance makes children susceptible to certain exposures that can harm them, physically, psychologically, sexually, emotionally and spiritually.
“For instance most children these days find it hard to read. Not because they would not read if they are told to, but because there is a lack of zeal to take on this activity. This is primarily as a result of the fact that there is no reading culture in their homes. It is said ‘charity begins at home’, so if they don’t see the habit of reading from the home, how possible do you think it would be inculcated easily in the children’s lifestyle.
“The school cannot do the moral instruction alone, the parents play a vital role in laying the foundation of ethical values and standards in their children’s lives.
“The panacea to this is that parents no matter how busy they maybe, should factor in their children in their schedules. When their child or children are a part of their daily routine, they become a significant part of their lives.”
On her part, Founder, Impact HER Initiative Chioma Uwandu, has this to say, “ It is a sad reality today that the amount of quality time parents spend with their children is gradually reducing. Some of the factors that lead to this trend are economic hardship and the need for both parents to work to make ends meet.
“And the impacts include children becoming irresponsible, hooligans, and turning to other vices. Today, since parents hardly spend time with their children, the maids and teachers do their job. What happens is that proper home training that shapes children from infancy is absent and the children are left at the mercy of whatever they learn outside their home.” she said
Suggesting ways to curb this trend, the University of Lagos, Doctoral student said, “ To ameliorate this, parents should negotiate between themselves how to create time for their children. They should provide moral instructions at home for their children at home. Mothers should top their games. Nothing should take the place of good home training and mothers must create time to monitor their children growth.”
“There are impacts and mostly negative. For one, kids no longer bond well with their parents. Teachers and maids spend more time with kids nowadays. Parents must be able to strive for balance.” Onome Onwah, Treasured Thoughts Academy.
Stella Peters, WEWIN, Women empowerment initiative, said, “A child who was not taken care of by a mother especially; because the mother is always out of the home looking for money to take care of her children well into the night.
“Perhaps because the father is also not around or not capable of taking care of his home may run into untold hazard like having depression, peer pressure influence and advise from wrong sectors which they may implement and land into untold trouble and just to hide from these troubles they may get into bigger troubles that would lead them to do the impossible.
“I have a situation in hand of a child whose parents are very busy with their lives and relationship.
“These children which were just two found themselves in wrong relationships. The girl found out that she prefers dating a girl instead of a boy; whereas the boy took to buying and taking hard drugs which he couldn’t eventually pay for. He began stealing to pay his debts and when he couldn’t steal enough and was still threaten by the drug gang nearly took his life because that was the only alternative out as his parents were very busy with their lives”, she said.
Favour, a business Woman explained that, “Some children are sometimes pushed to the wall because the parents are always out of the home looking for money.
“These children eventually would make wrong friends that are not good for them and they would start engaging on stuff that cannot be explained and since they are checked by their parents.
“They get into trouble; like getting pregnant and taking medicine to terminate these pregnancies that cause over bleeding and eventual death if they are not discovered on time.
“There is a case of a single mother of two in my neighbourhood; these two are girls children and are very young. The oldest is only 10 years old while the youngest is only 5 years old. This single mother leaves these children by themselves well into the night and sometimes returns in the mid night.
“These young children would stay alone even when there is light well into the night. Of course, she started noticing DAT her children were already stealing money to indulge with other children. Who knows what would have happened if she hasn’t discovered this?
Pastor Justice Shaye in her reasoning summed that, “This issue is a pathetic case as we are all casualties even the church. The last case of suicide happened to a member of a believing church. It means it can happen to anybody if we are not more careful.
“Depression is a serious matter hence if someone looks depressed; help should given to that person and fast because the depressed person feels nobody loves them and hears a voice that tells them to take their lives. I want to use this opportunity to solicit that we take this issue very seriously and prayers alone cannot help because the needful needs to be done also.
Sharon however warned that, “We cannot sit in the media and continue to say things against women. According to her, “It is the way the society has designed things for women. It is very wrong to pass judgment on mothers. We can support one another. We should encourage one another. But, every woman should only strive to become good mother.
“The simple truth about Child Right Act is for us to aspire to have good parenting care. We should must not abuse our children. We should expose them to the right materials. We should give good counsel. Endeavour to hear their opinion. That is what inspires children. As women, we must be eager to make sure that our children achieve greatness.