Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

World Children’s Day: The demands and dreams of Nigerian children

For children to thrive, it is important that, government around the globe take issues concerning youngsters such as; health, education, nutrition amongst others, seriously.

As a new report by United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, states that, the number of children living in multidimensional poverty, those without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water, is estimated to have soared by 15 percent, or an additional 150 million children by mid-2020 globally.

More alarming data from the report also revealed that as of November 2020, 572 million students are affected across 30 country-wide school closures -33 percent of the enrolled students worldwide.

According to the survey, "an estimated two million additional child deaths and 200,000 additional stillbirths could occur over a 12-month period with severe interruptions to services and rising malnutrition.

"An additional six to seven million children under the age of five will suffer from wasting or acute malnutrition in 2020, a 14 percent rise that will translate into more than 10,000 additional child deaths per month, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia."

With coronavirus, more children have been forced into child labour, various forms of abuse- physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.

Speaking to journalists in Lagos during the 2020 commemoration of World Children's Day, 16year old Olatunde Habeebat, a Senior Secondary School student of Herbert Macaulay Girls Senior High School, Sabo- Yaba is passionate and driven to change the lives of children in her community, Makoko.

According to Habeebat, it has always been her prayers that, the Nigerian education system would improve seriously with good platforms and learning materials.

She said, "In my community, Makoko, we are faced with a lot of children not going to school. The slum has challenges such a child abuse, unemployment, gender inequality and discrimination. Worst still are those who have one form of disabilities, as they are discriminated from having education. I want that to stop.

"It has always been my dreams to become a lawyer so I can defend my people. I have always known that, I would stand for children in my community who do not have the chance to quality education."

For little Adeyemi Praise, eight, whose dream is to be a pilot demands an enabling environment to achieve her goals.

She said, "there must be a change in the affairs of Nigeria. I see a Nigeria where a woman can become president, achieving gender equality. As women are the bedrock of a society."

Known for his newly developed App, 15year old Senior Secondary School One student, Oseni Abdulmalik, said that during the COVID-19 lockdown, a lot of children were not able to learn but fortunately for him, he benefited from a not- for profit organisation -Slum2School Africa where he was given a learning tool to help enhance my learning ability at home due to the closure of schools.

Along the line, Abdulmalik said, " I was then introduced to a robotic dummy camp where I used my innovative ideas to create an App- A Social Distancing Alert device and also a traffic light. The alert device helps to notify one-metre proximity of the next person with a red alert beaming.

He said that the program is unique as it gives children the needed voice to air their views and assisting them to achieve their dreams.

The youngster urged children to put in their best in whatever they want to do, stressing the need for consistent practice and never give up on their dreams.

He enjoined all stakeholders to create a vision that is beneficial to all children irrespective of who they are as he aspires to see a Nigeria where every child deserves quality education and get quality education without depending on foreign education.

Earlier in his remarks, UNICEF Country Representative, Mr Peter Hawkins, called on those at the helm of affairs to listen and take action on the demands of children.

He said that the World Children's Day is to celebrate the achievements made over 30 years when the Convention on the Right of the Child, CRC, was adopted but also to re-emphasize that what is needed to be done, is to ensure that children world over including Nigeria can live a life of dignity, health and be able to aspire.

Hawkins added that children and young people who are calling for change, must be listened to, stressing the need for improvements in the situation of children in Nigeria, many of whom are playing an active role in their communities to help bring about that change.

 

He said, UNICEF Nigeria also introduced two new animated characters to Nigeria, "Lara and Ali" – who bring regular messages to children about important child rights issues in a fun and educative way.

Commenting, the Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Lagos State, Mr Olusegun Dawodu represented by the Acting Permanent Secretary of same ministry, Mr Adewunmi Ogunsanya, said UNICEF has a dynamic and supportive role in its collaborative efforts in strengthening the Child Protection system in the state which has yielded provision and support of stakeholders with child protection tools, equipment to supplement what is on ground to make work easier and smoother.

He added that the United Nations body instituted a Diversion programme which is community rehabilitation for children in conflict with the law and the high risk of offending in the state, which he said is presently operational in four local government Areas: Mushin, Kosofe, Shomolu and Oshodi.

 

 

According to the Commissioner, "this is an alternative measure where children's energy are channeled towards vocational skills on a day to day basis while still enjoying the comfort of their home in the community. Thereafter, empowered accordingly at the acquisition of the skills or vocation."

 

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