It is common knowledge that children are the future of every country. They are the future of a great nation only if given a solid foundation on which a better society can be built. The direction of a nation therefore can be gauged by the importance that nation places on its children and youths.
A child in Nigeria is any youth/citizen between the ages of 0 to 17 years. At that phase, the individual is not responsible for themselves, and therefore have to be taken care of by parents or guardians. In organised countries, there are adequate welfare policies like monthly stipends to aid the child’s spending rights even as adequate healthcare and education are provided for free during those formative years.
In Nigeria kids are faced with many challenges on a daily basis, and according to the CIA Fact Book, 42 percent of Nigeria’s more than 138 million residents are children. Seventy percent of them live below the poverty line with Nigeria also having a very high infant mortality rate of 93.93 per 1000 births. (This compares to 6.3/1000 in the United States.)
The children are also exposed to kidnapping, street trading, lack of qualitative education, malnutrition and a host of other disease.
Meanwhile, the Children’s Day in Nigeria was created in 1964 as inspired by the United Nations children’s efforts. It is marked on the 27th day of May each year and recognised as a school holiday for them. The standard practice is to select children from each school to participate in a match-past to salute the state leader in the stadium in competition with other schools. The schools are selected for first, second and third prices respectively, won at the march past. This renders the celebration education based, thus depriving others that are unable to enrol in schools due to poverty.
Naturally, any society that would be better, then, education is regarded as the basis upon which future generation is built. And for any society to develop there has to be a connection between its present and its future; children serve as a bridge or a transition through which this is accomplished.
The current stalemate in Nigeria should sincerely instigate us to inquire about the rationale behind this year’s observance of the Children’s Day celebration when the world is crying out to our government to bring back the Chibok girls, children abducted since April 14 by the Boko Haram sect, while in a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State where they were writing their West African Senior School Certificate examination. The same insurgent group has been sniffing life out of children as well as adults without security solutions so far, to combat their activities. Such stories are no longer news and those in authority do not seem to be interested in showing sorrow by slowing down on the continuous shindigs portraying Nigeria as a careless minder of her children.
It is therefore the opinion of this article that the 2014 edition of the celebration should have been shelved in solidarity with the adverse prevailing circumstances weighing heavily against Nigerian kids. This would not have diminished whatever achievements the president government is making against being held hostage by the Islamic militants, but rather portray the government as sensitive and caring for citizens it swore an oath to protect.
At the moment, there has been rumoured/threatened boycott of the celebration by the Nigerian Children’s Parliament and the Rivers State. And the most rational thing would’ve been for the federal government to shelve any manner of celebration as a tangible response to the deafening worldwide rallies against the abduction of the Chibok Girls. For anything less will portray this government as numb and indifferent to the plight of the future of Nigeria, a constituency it swore to protect.
Nigeria has in the past made many mistakes where it concerns her citizens, it might not be too late for government to start showing empathy and commitment to things that will make the ordinary Nigerian have a sense of belonging and regale in the thought of being a Nigerian. We are indeed waiting.
To whom much is given, much is also expected.
Marty Eteng is Publisher and Editor,
National Youth Magazine, Nigeria.
© 2014, Admin. All rights reserved.