By Ebunoluwa Sessou & Victoria Ojeme

June 16 was celebrated as International Day of the African Child. The theme is 30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children.

The big questions are: how would the Day of the African Child be celebrated amidst security challenges in Nigeria? Who should speak for the African Child and how best should the day be celebrated?

WO samples opinions of stakeholders and many of them shared their thoughts. According to them, so many children are now targets of insurgency, banditry, killings, ritual killings that are ravaging the country, from the East to the West and North to South.

The present situation in the country is pathetic so much so that most children are now out of school; many are living in panic as well as those children who are still in the den of kidnappers.

READ ALSO: Police arrest 8 suspects for kidnapping, homicide in Kaduna

In her reaction, Coordinator of WRAPH, Bose Irosi lamented  the increasing rate of insecurity, kidnappings and all forms of abuse because children are soft targets and more vulnerable.

“Well, looking at what is happening globally and nationally, you will agree that children are more endangered now than before with the increasing rate of insecurity, kidnappings, and all forms of abuse because they are soft targets and more vulnerable.

“Even in the family or community setting, children face a lot of abuse more than adults. So the day should not be celebrated because there is nothing to celebrate. Our schools are not safe anymore

“The parents and the government owe the children the responsibility to speak and protect them.

“The day should be observed to bring attention to the needs of the children rather than being celebrated. There should be concrete steps to protect the child for the future

In his contribution, Hassan Soweto, National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign, ERC, said: “Given how much setback Nigeria has experienced in all of the indices guiding access to public education for the African child and most especially given how much of school children have either been kidnapped or even killed in the violent conflict unfolding in the North-East, North-Central and North-West, there is absolutely no reason for a celebration.

“Rather, the day should be used to reflect on what needs to be done to ensure the African child has access to quality public education in a risk-free and safe atmosphere.

‘This would require an end to the pro-capitalist policies of education underfunding and fee hike which blocks access to the majority and creates inequality in education provision as well as an end to the insecurity and violent conflict in different parts of the country which has made schools insecure for both students and teachers.

“Most importantly, trade unions like the NUT, the student unions and NANS need to use the day to map out a programme of action to begin to mobilise and fight to demand for adequate funding of public education, reversal of all hiked fees, democratic management of schools and adequate provisions to ensure safety of school children and teachers.

“African children themselves should have a voice. Unfortunately, this is not the case given the assault on students’ unionism and any initiatives by students at any level to organise and speak for themselves. In the past, the older generation of students learnt how to organise and speak up not from the universities but actually from the primary and secondary schools.

“We need to restore the culture of pen clubs, literary or debating groups and societies back to schools to act as independent and democratic means or channels to enable school children find their voice and speak for themselves.”

Karissa Idoko, Founder & Creative Director of K-GAP Initiative said:  “If you watch the trend, you will see that what is obtainable is little progress for children, then a big regression. This happens in almost all the social sectors in our countries. In education for example, wars, insurgencies, unprepared and scanty responses to Covid-19 pandemic have taken the progress achieved by many countries at least 5 to 7 years back.”

On security, it should be observed with a pensive mood especially because a lot of children are still in the hands of their abductors and are being violated by the second. Please there is no need for celebrations or ceremonies except key stakeholders will gather to review the situations that African children are in, and take quick steps to liberate them!  Institutions like African Union and ECOWAS should mark the day with earnest tenacity to save the children of Africa.

“I think it should be celebrated. I agree with this. But instead of taking it for granted as a holiday, we should be meeting to find solutions to the many perils that children face in Africa.

“Children in Africa, mainly, and those who work with children should speak for themselves. Not the people who do not have our experience or ask us about our thoughts and opinions.

I think, if we must observe International Day of the African Child, the most appropriate way would be a solemn observation with special care for the children who have lost their parents to the insecurity ravaging the land. It must involve a renewed devotion towards resolving the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. It must involve a strong commitment to keeping the children safe in their schools, at home and other places.

In her reaction, Professor

                Adebukola Osunyinkanmi, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Adekunle Ajasin University said: “I think the question of whether it should be celebrated or not, would depend on how we intend to celebrate it.

“ If the event will be observed without consideration for the families and children who are victims of insecurity, kidnappings, banditry and terrorism, then it is neither respectful nor right to observe the day.

“We should all be speaking about African children and the various dangers that surround them. Let us address the vulnerabilities of the African child in our efforts to develop them.”

Joyce Ugbosu, Teenage coach, said: “Amidst the insecurity and decline of the economy in Nigeria, the children have shown great resilience towards hardship and great innovative strides  in numerous fields in the society in order to boost the economy. The origin of the June 16th celebration of the African Child couldn’t be more appreciated at a time like this given that the children are the direct victims of the failure of government.

“The children have taken it upon themselves to speak for themselves as it is evident that majority of the leaders have little or no regard for the welfare of the future generation. Humanitarian bodies are also tasked with this responsibility to ensure that all children are given good and equal opportunities and fair treatment in every society,” she added.

Professor Evelyn Uwa Edosomwa of the University of Benin noted: “The main objective of the agenda is to restore the dignity of the African child through assessing the achievements and challenges faced towards the effective implementation of the African Children’s Charter.

“This day should be celebrated for African children in Nigeria by creating awareness on the reason the day was established in schools, in social, news & print media.

“Nigerian Government should be reminded of her responsibility to protect and provide security for the African child at home, in school and at play. The rights of children should be protected, they should have the right conditions to flourish and achieve their full potential in life.

In her response, Adeola Ekine, Chairperson, NAWOJ, Lagos Chapter, explained that, “Agenda 2040 provides a child-centered focus based on the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which highlights children’s rights and welfare concerns. We have 19 years to achieve Agenda 2040, we might think we still have a lot of time and then relax, but with this theme, African states would begin to gear up actions to achieve agenda 2040.

“I would like to note that it is imperative that African leaders reflect and make haste on how to make the continent safe for children irrespective of class or status.

“So, observing the day among the dangers that children are exposed to – is to engage state and non-state actors on how best to address these challenges. Most importantly, actions should be taken, not just conversations and deliberations, these must be supported with actions that would drive results.

“Celebrating the Day of the African Child doesn’t mean we are gathering to eat or rejoice over the insecurity and unpleasant issues that have made our children more vulnerable, it is a way of reflecting on the challenges that children are faced with and how to mitigate them.

“The child should speak first, and then those who have the interest of the child at heart.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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