…As new report says discrimination impacts their education, health, others

By Chioma Obinna

The United Nations Children’s fund, UNICEF, on Saturday called for inclusion and equality for all children across the world. The call is coming on the heels of its new report published ahead of the 2022 World Children’s Day which revealed that discrimination against children based on ethnicity, language, and religion is rife in countries worldwide.

Making the call in Lagos during a “Five-a-side football matches by children to mark the Day, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms Cristian Munduate also called on the  Nigerian government at all levels to commit to ensuring that no Nigerian children drop out of school.

According to her, UNICEF is celebrating and supporting all children across the globe to celebrate World Children’s Day, and sending a positive message about inclusion, non-discrimination and climate change.  “We are saying that children have rights to education, health, and nutrition, to live in a safe environment where they are protected, sing and dance as well as participate in sports activities.

She urged all adults worldwide to work and show commitment to ensure that children’s rights are guaranteed.

Speaking on the significance of football matches, Munduate explained that sports are a powerful means to promote inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination.

“We have millions of children that cannot even play. We want the adults to provide opportunities to let them participate and play and most of all-inclusiveness.  “Today, you will see children with us that has different capabilities, but that does not mean that they should be excluded, we are calling for inclusion for all children because they are all the same and need to have the same opportunity in life, It does not mean that they are different it is just that they have different capabilities but same opportunities should be provided for  them.” 

She charged the media to continue raising their voice for children as key societal actors.

“The media should let society know that children have the right to go to school, sensitise families that the children have the right to education and participate in school too.

“We are calling on government at all levels to assume the commitment that they will make all efforts to bring children to school. It is the school that drops out children.”

The event which also have in attendance UNICEF Nigeria Ambassador, Cobhams Asuquo and Laliga Ambassador/Former Supper Footballer, Mutiu Adepoju also featured; All-girls exhibition match; #ClimateChange painting activity by children, including children living with disabilities and a musical performance by Cobhams Asuquo – UNICEF Nigeria Ambassador.

Addressing the Children, UNICEF Nigeria Ambassador, Cobhams Asuquo encouraged the children to enjoy their childhood in a safe environment, safe planet and with a system that supports their educational rights.

He charged the children to form habits that would help them in adulthood. “You are never too young to care for your family parents, siblings, teachers, planet and yourselves.  Make the environment even better than we left it for you. You are never too young to care. I love you all. Make sure you enjoy your childhood.”

On his part, Laliga Ambassador/Former Supper Footballer, Mutiu Adepoju also encouraged the children to focus on their dreams and vision and ensure that they maintain discipline in everything they do.

“At the moment you are young but if you focus on what you are doing and your education; the sky will be your limit.

“Discipline is very important and it is the key to success.  Listen to your teachers and your parents.”

In a related development, a new UNICEF report has shown that discrimination against children based on ethnicity, language, and religion is rife in countries worldwide.

The impact of discrimination on children shows the extent to which racism and discrimination impact children’s education, health, access to a registered birth, and a fair and equal justice system, and highlights widespread disparities among minority and ethnic groups.

According to the UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell systemic racism and discrimination put children at risk of deprivation and exclusion that can last a lifetime.

“This hurts us all. Protecting the rights of every child – whoever they are, wherever they come from – is the surest way to build a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world for everyone.”

Among the new findings, the report shows that children from marginalized ethnic, language and religious groups in an analysis of 22 countries lag far behind their peers in reading skills. On average, students aged 7-14 from the most advantaged group are more than twice as likely to have foundational reading skills than those from the least advantaged group.

Nigeria has 18.3 million children who are not in school, and a high number of children attending schools but not getting a solid education that can translate into good prospects for their future. While this crisis affects children across the country, girls, children with disabilities, children from the poorest households, street children, and children affected by displacement or emergencies are affected more.

Discrimination and exclusion deepen intergenerational deprivation and poverty and result in poorer health, nutrition, and learning outcomes for children, a higher likelihood of incarceration, higher rates of pregnancy among adolescent girls, and lower employment rates and earnings in adulthood.

While COVID-19 exposed deep injustices and discrimination across the world, and the impacts of climate change and conflict continue to reveal inequities in many countries, the report highlights how discrimination and exclusion have long persisted for millions of children from ethnic and minority groups and children living with disabilities, including access to immunisation, water and sanitation services, and a fair justice system.

“On World Children’s Day and every day, every child has the right to be included, to be protected, and to have an equal chance to reach their full potential.  All of us have the power to fight discrimination against children – in our countries, our communities, our schools, our homes, and our hearts. We need to use that power,” says Russell.

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