By Lateef Ositelu
THE idea behind children’s Day celebration is alien to African history and tradition. Not that African children are not valued and regarded as precious gifts from the Almighty God, but they believe there are limitations to their liberty and affection so as not to spoil them. For example, only the twins are revered as a special strain and blessing to the society and so they are sometimes celebrated through public funfair of drumming, dancing which also involves parental display.
Today, the global concept of “Universal Children’s Day” has ensured unification and togetherness in celebrating values intrinsic in children as a core asset of nation building. World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children for their well-being worldwide.
The Day is not a public holiday but a global observance to mark the anniversaries of the declaration of the right of the child while other countries hold the events on different dates such as fourth Wednesday in October. Today the World Children’s Day is celebrated on November 20 to commemorate the Declaration of the Right of the Child by the United Nations, UN, General Assembly on November 20, 1959.
Although there is a variant history of children’s day in the world, as some traced it back to the USA in 1857 where a Pastor called Charles Leonard held a service for children in his church known locally as Children’s Day. Another faction gave credence to that of Turkey which has celebrated its International Children’s Day since 1920. And later the first International Children’s Day was declared in 1925 at the World Conference on Child Welfare in Geneva. In Moscow, the Women’s International Democratic Federation declared that June the first should be celebrated as an International Day for the Protection of Children, with other days announced across the globe.
As a matter of fact, May 27 every year is traditionally Nigerian children’s holiday where children are granted holiday as part of government’s desire of promoting social well-being in the country. Even though most children in the villages do not have full knowledge of the occasion, some of them usually take a free day to play away from school. Others are seen in their various school uniforms celebrating the occasion through various activities such as marching parade at selected stadiums and so on, according to administrative planning of each state. The occasion in Nigeria has further exposed the children to a better life where they have the opportunity of seeing the governor of their state live or his representative among other state officials to motivate and charge them to be godly as an upcoming asset of the nation.
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As we celebrate this year Children’s Day we should drop every unacceptable African belief or character that could promote social vices. Let us caution African parental concept where sharing of intimacy or rubbing of minds on issues is termed or regarded as disrespect to the elders as exemplified in a Yoruba parlance: Oko oleje ti Baba t’omo, koma la’ala; meaning: there must be boundary in a father and a child relationship.
The point is that African children encounter various public dangers and domestic hazards due to unacceptable concepts in some quarters; that a child must be exposed to hardship before acquiring qualitative experience and wisdom in life. No wonder some children are sometimes twisted into street hawkers, vendors of all sorts of merchandise goods as well as hard work that are closely related to child labour.
The response of most African parents while being cautioned from being unnecessarily harsh on their children is that: Oloju O’ni laju e sile ki’talubo Wo; meaning: no parent would watch his child going rebellious. The joy is that most states have passed the Child Right Act into law to protect children from maltreatment either from their guardians or biological parents. Today every ill-treatment meted to children has not only been condemned globally as child abuse but affected parents may incur the wrath of the law.
Be that as it may, it is an international holiday that was first established in Nigeria in 1964. The selected date of celebration is varied from country to country. But the point is that, it marks the celebration of children, raises awareness on issues affecting children wellness and appreciates their future socio-economic value to the development of a nation.
Remarkably, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ogun State government remains committed to the well-being of children and commemorated the May 27, 2021 Universal Children’s day with the theme: ‘Promoting Girl Child Education For Sustainable Development’ through virtual App.
The App was created by Integrity Campaign Club and supported by Mobile Classroom App, where the wife of the Ogun State Governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, charged the children across the state to be well behaved, focused and hard working towards achieving their dreams. As a matter of fact, the Ogun State government must be commended for organising that virtual Children’s Day, the first of its kind in the nation.
In Ogun State, the children were treated and also exposed to various motivating activities such as talent hunt for 20 secondary schools students, each from the three senatorial districts. They participated in poem recitation, quiz, and musical presentations on keyboard, trumpet and saxophone, among others. There is optimism that the present administration under Governor Dapo Abiodun would not relent at celebrating this year Children’s Day in grand style irrespective of COVID- 19 or lock down, as government had put in place necessary measures in building the future of our children together.
Let all well-to-do Nigerians from all professions support the celebration of Nigeria children’s day so as to build reliable future leaders for the socio-economic development of the nation. Besides, African parents should learn from the global value and celebration attached to Children’s day with fun fare, games, among other sporting activities, to motivate and give a sense of leadership to our children. Let governments at all levels take child education as their core priority, protect children rights and create more awareness on training them with civility.
*Ositelu is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State; he can be reached via: [email protected]