Today is the Future of the Nigerian Children

by Odimegwu Onwumere

Nigerian leaders in different tiers of government and endeavours have
done everything humanly possible to elevate the status of the Nigerian
children, but with slim results. Their efforts range from the
enactment of Corporate Social Investment (CSI) to Corporate Social
Responsibility (CSR); from Basic Education policies to Parent Teacher
Association; from Insurance to essay competitions, and others. They
are of the opinion that the children are the future of tommorrow.

But from all indication, there will be no utopian future for the
children if the ground is not softened for them today. There is
manifest that the Nigerian children will not measure up with their
counterparts in other climes if today is not put up properly for them
to attain the future, full of hope and aspirations.

One calculation is that the Nigerian children need insurance today to
guaranty their future. Writing, Sunday Ojeme, a media expert said that
any well-meaning government of the day should not wave the matter of
insurance with the back the hand. He, however, stressed that this
medium has been relegated to the background, due to the uneasiness to
claim payment from the insurers.

“Insurance, which ordinarily should command more respect in this
regard, has been relegated to the background due to the long standing
credibility problem, especially as regards claims of payment. In the
developed world, insurance remains an institution that the government
of the day does not toy with; hence enough provision is always made to
ensure that everybody is well covered,” he said.

Further, Ojeme held that for example, President George Bush of the
United States and the US Senate once had to argue over the State
Children’s Health Insurance Programme; the senators had demanded that
more money be budgeted for the programme.

In his account, another example was from the Managing Director of
Trevor Investments, Mr. Chuka Nwabunor, who was of the philosophy that
the operators of insurance companies needed to convince parents beyond
words in order for them to gear up interests in insurance to guaranty
the future of their children.

Ojeme squabbled that insurance is essential for the children to secure
money to back endowment plans. Notwithstanding, he advised that in the
event that parents wanted to plan for their children through
insurance, they should be acquainted with how much they would earn and
at what year that the money would be due.

Child labour would be sent on errand, if parents deposit in insurance.
But many backgrounds accept child labour, which has been characterised
by individuals and organisations as an inimical form of bringing up a
child, as normal. Nonetheless, there is no ruling out the fact that
children in the country also have responsibility.

Another media professional, Ebere Nwiro would not have said that there
was a report by The Nigerian NGOs, which revealed that a staggering 15
million children under the age of 14 are working across Nigeria, if
the children’s future is guaranteed through a portal like the

Nwiro frowned that these Nigerian children are exposed to long hours
of work, but especially, in hazardous and injurious environments. Like
Ojeme warned that if the future of the children is insured, it is
conspicuous that there would be no tendencies of them carrying too
much liability for their age. Yet, working with little food, small
pay, no education and no medical care, Nwiro cried.

Nwiro had this to say concerning the reason behind the children’s
suffering: “While children have always worked in Nigeria, the figures
have significantly increased over the years. The end of the oil boom
in the 70s, coupled with mounting poverty, has driven millions of
children into labour.”

Studies and reports, especially from the International Labour
Organization (ILO), according to Nwiro, showed that child labour has
been made worse in the recent times, because some of these children
have no solid background, no education and no parental care.

“In the circumstances, they become street hawkers. They work in the
streets during the day, and work even at night in some cases. Such
lifestyles become very dangerous and nomadic types of life. There is
little wonder therefore, that the future of these children is very
dark and bleak,” he said.

These children who are subjected to carry their family
responsibilities today, without doubt, have a bleak future. Many are
hidden from public view because of the harsh situations they work in.
While their parents hinge their actions on their children on poverty,
Nwiro had to posit that Child Rights activists also submitted that
lack of access to education is a major reason for the child labour

On the other side, government at all levels is not carving a niche for
the children today, to attain a beaming future. Apparently, a meeting
held in Kaduna by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), showed
that about three years after the Child Rights Act was established and
passed by virtually all the 17 southern States in Nigeria;
regrettably, only three out of the 19 northern states had passed the
Child Rights Act.

The law, it was learned, seeks to promote the rights of children to a
better life and protect them against the vagaries of exploitation,
abuse and exploitation. Rabiu Musa, UNICEF Communications Officer had

Not even the UNICEF’s engagement of parents, the three tiers of
government and institutions, including NGOs, to address issues of
child labour and trafficking, have curbed the bad situation that the
Nigerian children are facing today.

No Nigerian is sure what could have happened to the children if the
Nigerian Government had not in August, 2003, officially adopted three
International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions setting a minimum
age for the employment of children. Even by going as far as signing a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in cooperation with ILO to launch a
country programme under the International Programme for Elimination of
Child Labour (IPEC).

“When this Nation has attained its true height in the near future, let
it be our known that as true citizens of this great nation we ensured
that by conscious effort, might, will power and strength of character,
we ensured that after all is said and done more is done than said,”
reportedly said Deo Avante.

Investigations have revealed that the authorities can still ensure
that “more is done than said” to the Nigerian children today for their
better future. Connoisseurs on the wellbeing of children had
reiterated that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child has to be reinvented and implemented, since it defines a child
as any human being under the age of eighteen.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is
composed of members from countries around the world, has to monitor
the compliance of this law, since the United Nations General Assembly
adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on 20th November
1989 (the 30th anniversary of its Declaration of the Rights of the
Child), and it came into vigor on 2 September 1990, after it was put
through by the expected number of nations. Nigeria should remember
that she is one of the 194 countries, as of November 2009, that have
ratified it.

“When the various human rights documents are considered, even though
they are applicable to all human beings, they are not necessarily
child specific and fail to address the peculiar needs of children. For
the rights of the ch

ild, an International law or “International
Convention” was required; hence the convention on the Rights of the
Child (CRC). And in addition, the OAU Assembly of Heads of States and
Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and
Welfare of the Child (CRCW) in July 1990,” expressed Dominic E.
Obozuwa, LLB, BL, Associate, Wali-Uwais & Co in “Nigeria @ 50,
Protecting The Future Of This Nigerian Child – The Future Leaders Of
This Nation: A Look Again At The Child Rights Act.”

Gordon Brown, former Labour prime minister in UK, significantly
pointed out in “Challenges of educating Nigeria’s out of school
children” that Nigeria has to see to her nearly 1.3 million shortage
of teachers, and the lack of basic infrastructure, and the shortfall
of up to 1.2 million classrooms. She should also arrest the issue of
gender and religious biases, and sheer cost for poorer families that
are constraints, which are among the major factors that allow only
fewer children in school each year.

Estimations are that leaders in different tiers of government and
endeavours in Nigeria should not foster in the denying of any boy or
girl the right to education for the future. These judgments posited
that money amounting to billions of dollars from international donors
have to be properly utilised. It is not sugarcoated position that 10.5
million primary school-age Nigerian children are not in education, and
that Nigeria is home to the world’s largest out-of-school population.

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