COVID-19 making Africa unfit for children — UNICEF
By Chioma Obinna
As Africans on Wednesday marked the Day of the African Child with the theme: “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children”, Nigerian children have called for countries where their rights are protected to enable them to attain their full potentials.
Meanwhile, the United Nation’s Children Fund, UNICEF, has said that the COVID-18 pandemic has heightened the existing challenges towards having a continent fit for children, adding that, violence is perpetrated against 1 in 4 Nigerian children.
The Children who took turns to speak on the Nigeria of their dream during an event organised by the UNICEF in partnership with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, to mark the Day in Lagos, called for an end to insecurity, child labour, child marriage and poverty among others.
Speaking, a 12-year-old Wisdom Faith and student of BIJAMIC College, Lagos who said she has no regret being born in Africa said Government should declare free education for children in Nigeria so that less privileged children will also have equal opportunity with other children that come from privileged homes.
“I will like to advise parents to encourage the Nigerian children to fulfil their dreams. Government should put more efforts to build more schools and create employment opportunity for parents who have lost their jobs as that is the reasons why many Nigerian children are out of school.”
On his part, a 15 -year -old student of Kingston College, Lagos, Oshodi Hamzat, who is also in SS2, said he feels good that the African child is recognised stressed the need for government to prioritise the rights and the welfare of children.
He regretted that while he (Oshodi) is having all his rights in his home, many Nigerian children are vulnerable to violence, exposed to danger, and forced into child labour instead of being in school.
Hamzat said every child has the right to go to school. “I urge the government to build more schools, stop child labour they should ensure that no child is on the street. Our leaders should be more remorseful, not thinking of their families alone, they should also care for vulnerable children in the country.”
To stem the high rates of cultism and drug abuse, Hamzat however advised fellow children not to follow what they see, “They should not allow anybody to influence them because not all that glitters is gold.
He further tasked adult Nigerians to stop activities that could influence Children negatively.
In her goodwill message, the Communication, Advocacy & Partnership Manager, UNICEF Nigeria, Nidhi Joshi, who noted that the Day of the African Child was designed to reflect, and take stock on child rights issues in Africa, amidst the existing challenges, COVID-19 has become a child rights crisis worldwide.
“Poverty is rising, inequality is growing, and the pandemic has often disrupted the essential services of providing timely health and nutrition services, continuing education and learning and protecting children and young people.
“The longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on women and children. “
She disclosed that violence is perpetrated against 1 in 4 Nigerian children – and 1 in 3 Nigerian girls is sexually abused.
“These violations of the rights of children have increased during the pandemic.
“We all must commit, all through the year, and more so today, to reinforce the protection mechanisms for all children. Nigerian children, and by extension children in the continent, are resilient, talented, and they aspire to do great things. “
She said it has been established that protecting children and investing in women and families is not only the right thing to do but also has proven to be a sound economic choice and a cost-effective tool for national development.
“As we celebrate African children today, we must act in their best interests and deploy innovative solutions to fast-track learning and health services to build back better for every child in the African continent.”
Speaking, the Acting Director, Lagos Operations, Radio Nigeria Lagos Operation, Mr Estiphanus Baba, said the Day of the African Child was in commemoration of the 10,000 black school children who marched in a stretch of more than half a kilometre long on 16th June 1976 in South Africa protesting poor quality of their education and the need t for improvement of the education provided to African children.
He lamented that after 4 decades over 10.5million children in Nigeria are still out of school.
The High point of the event was a debate session on “Africa is not fit for children”.