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Published On: Thu, Nov 21st, 2019

Celebrating 30 Years Of Children’s Right: How Has Nigeria Fair?

A classroom in Delta State school

By Young Erhiurhoro
LAGOS NOVEMBER 21ST (URHOBOTODAY)-This November will mark thirty years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) since it was signed by heads of states and government of the United Nations in 1989. Without doubt, since 1989 when this convention was implemented in the various member states, it has really helped to change the way children are viewed and treated everywhere in the world.
However, we want to bring our appraisal or assessment down to our country, Nigeria. How has the journey of the Child’s Rights been in Nigeria since 1989?
Secondly, we want to assess this not from the legal perspective but from the lay man’s understanding of the issue at hand.
First and foremost, we appreciate the fact that Nigeria has been an active member state of the United Nations even since our independence in 1960. In this area of the Child’s Rights in Nigeria, our leaders have failed. The CRC is only implemented on pages of paper and not on a practical drive. The Child’s Rights is the worst our parliament has slammed on the floor since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. Those in the National Assembly might have promulgated bills on the welfare of children which might have equally be signed into laws since, but the truth is that, at the implementation stage which is the sole responsibility of the executive arm of government, the various laws are killed as a result of poor implementation. Let’s buttress the above points with some of those problems confronting the Nigerian Child.
In the first place, let us look into the area of education. Education is a basic priority of children. In fact, education is a right of every child. And by every standard, education is made free for children in basic and secondary schools in Nigeria. But is it true that education is totally free in this level of education in Nigeria? The answer is no. Education is quite expensive to poor Nigerians.
Many of the public primary schools across the country are eye sore and ordinary ghosts called primary schools. Schools without infrastructure and learning materials. In some cases, schools without teaching staff. For instance, in some parts of Delta state, children are still learning on bare floor without desks. Some of the classrooms have no chalkboards to write on. In some cases, there are no teachers. A good example is Unenurhie Primary School in Ughelli North LGA of Delta, the school only have three government teachers including the school head. In such a situation, how can two teachers teach pupils that are more than a hundred? I also believe that the story is not different in other public primary schools across the country.
The issue of education is very sensitive and paramount to the development of this country that we cannot just sweep it under the carpet in a moment. If really our leaders know that the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, then they would implement policies that would give our children quality, effective and practical education. But in this case too, our leaders know what they are doing. It is glaringly clear to every Dick and Harry or the educated and the uneducated that Nigeria is not practicing democracy in the true definition of the word but Nigeria is practicing “Democratic Oligarchy and Monarchy”.
This is because the government has made education unaffordable to poor Nigerians so that power will continue to revolve round their dynasties. It’s on record that over one million children in this country can’t have access to education. These are children that have not stepped their feet into the four corners of classroom to learn how to read and write. This is true because in my own community, there are over sixty children roaming the streets on school days. And if you ask many of these children, they will tell you their parents have no money to pay their school fees. Yet, the government is telling the people and the world that education is free in Nigeria. Who is deceiving who in this matter?
Today many of these public primary schools in Nigeria are just slums where criminals are being trained. And yet, the government is shouting on top of its voice that it has done much in educational development in Nigeria. We should not forget that these public primary schools are not meant for the children of the rich especially the children of our leaders. As we know, children of the president, governors, members of the national assembly, members of state houses of assembly and even common local government chairmen, do not attend these public primary schools in Nigeria. Many of their children attend schools in abroad, even in nearby Ghana. This is why I said earlier that Nigeria is practicing democratic oligarchy and monarchy and not democracy. Our leaders want to prepare their children to take over the government of this country from them whenever the time comes. They give the best of education to their children not even in this country but in foreign lands why the children of the poor are learning in slums called schools.
Another issue we must tackle in Nigeria here as the United Nations is celebrating thirty years anniversary of the CRC is the issue of security of our children. Today, child labour, human trafficking, kidnapping and child marriage are on the vogue. The above social vices against children in these country has become unbearable especially for poor parents. On the issues of child labour and marriage, there are thousands of children that are being sold across borders everyday in this country. This won’t affect the children of the so called leaders but those of the poor. We have laws against child labour. But are they functioning? Today, in almost every city or big town in Nigeria, children are street hawkers and some are also used as house helps (house boys and girls) by these same leaders that made the laws. How do you think the laws would be effective when the law maker was the first to break it? Not only that, many young girls are trained as prostitutes and others sent to marry old men that are even older than their fathers. This is outright inhuman treatment. It’s a breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is outside everyday kidnapping of little children in public schools and other public places.
However, the bottom line of this issue is boiled down to the abject poverty of many parents in this country. Many of these parents cannot cater for the basic needs of their children. In order to make both ends meet, the children are forced to do unnecessary jobs and indulge in hard labour. This has actually led to death of so many children as a result of ritual killings and contacting of viral diseases. If the Nigerian Immigration Service have facts to present to the Nigerian people, I strongly believe that they won’t dispute the fact that Nigerian children across borders are much more than out of school children.
Conclusively, the Nigerian government is celebrating thirty years of child labour, kidnapping, child marriage, lack of education etc against the conventions and laws of the Nigerian Child. Nigeria as a country is not thinking of her children as the leaders of tomorrow by bequeathing to them a solid foundation of life especially in areas of productive, effective and practical education that would help to vigorously drive to a logical end our educational policies and programmes that are so much cherish in the documental stage. In order to achieve this, both the federal and state governments must have a strong monitoring network to enforce the rights of the child in both education and in their security. Though this is not affecting the children of our leaders but the children of the less privileged in the society. They must have to embark on educational revolution of this country if they (leaders) want peace in the government and to also reduce the rate of crime among these little children. Without this, the rate of crime will continue to leap in bounds among the children and in so doing, the nation will become ungovernable.
Finally, I want to conclude this short discourse by appealing to President Mohammadu Buhari to strongly uphold the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). This will be possible if he considered it necessary and important to create the Ministry of Children Development both at the federal cabinet and state cabinets. This ministry will be totally responsible for everything concerning the development of children in this country. It will also be the duty of this ministry to implement the laws or conventions of children in this country. In most advanced countries, this is the system they operate and that’s why they always record a lot of achievements and breakthroughs in the lives of their children. Once again, happy thirty years celebration.

Young Erhiurhoro; Kjc is a reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.

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