May 27 is a dedicated day to the celebration of children in Nigeria, and the theme for this year’s celebration is “Creating Safe Spaces for Children: Our Collective Responsibility”.
However, the reality we face in our day-to-day lives as Nigerians is very different from the ideal. From the young boy on the streets who has to make his own living hawking sesame seeds because his parents’ meagre income cannot take care of him, to the 9 year olds who continue to suffer from obstructed labor pain because they are supposed to be “married”, our country is full of children who are far from being safe. This makes me worry and think. A lot.
According to the latest statistics made available by UNESCO, about 8.6 million children are out of school in Nigeria, 4.9 million of which are females. This is just statistics on education. Other issues such as water, sanitation and hygiene, access to quality health, and violence against children are among the myriads of issues we continue to face that make our children vulnerable.
Just a couple of days ago, I was on a road trip to one of the northeastern states and our driver had made a stop to refuel and for us to eat. We had been travelling for over 5 hours and we all came down to get something to eat. As soon as I bought some snack to munch on, young boys who all wanted a share of my mini-lunch surrounded me. My heart broke when one of them bent down, picked up a crumble that had fallen off me, and put it in his mouth to eat. He was that hungry. These children were supposed to be in school, reading, learning, playing and having no care whatsoever.
I will never forget that experience in this my life. What worries me most is what the future holds for these ones. Children who grow up like this often end up becoming hardened criminals who have no regard for the sanctity of life, just because they had been deprived of theirs while growing up. We all need to wake up.
Our government must continuously implement policies that ensure that children are protected, Private and Public Institutions, Civil Societies, and even individual Nigerians must also do their part of the job at ensuring that our children are safe. We have a collective responsibility to them.
Like the old Yoruba adage says,
“You cannot put fire on your roof and expect to sleep soundly”.
There is fire on our mountain and if we do not take care of it, we all might end up burned.
We have a responsibility to the children around us. You and I must do our part to train and nurture them in the way to ensure they become individuals we can be proud of in the near future.
A happy children’s day to you all!