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Children’s Day: Many questions, few answers on children’s rights

In the past, Children’s Day was observed with numerous parades, where schools competed in dancing, cooking, match past, among numerous other activities.

Today, Nigerian children are celebrating their day in their various schools with different activities and at the end many of them will be going home with prizes won from different competitions, and some will be at home to enjoy a holiday to mark the day.

Children’s Day is celebrated annually in honour of children. Although the date of observance varies by country, every country sets aside a day to celebrate its children.

In Nigeria, Children’s Day is celebrated on May 27 as a public holiday for primary and secondary school children. The holiday is celebrated by schools, government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

In the past, Children’s Day was observed with numerous parades, where schools competed in dancing, cooking, match past, among numerous other activities.

The observance of Children’s Day in Nigeria is aimed to raise public awareness of problems that children face.

Report has it that about 42 per cent of the Nigerian population is children and 1/3 of children aged from six to 14 do not go to school.

According to UNICEF data, Nigeria is a country of the young with almost half the entire 180 million population – 46 per cent – currently under the age of 15.

The current total for children under the age of 5 stands at nearly 31 million, while each year at least 7 million babies are born. While a little over one in three of Nigeria’s whole population lives below the poverty line, among children this proportion surges to 75 per cent.

It is observed that in Nigeria, which is one of the countries with the highest number of out-of-school children, many children leave school for different purposes and their rights are often violated.

However, the government has been struggling to solve the problems connected with children’s rights violations and the “imperfect” system of education.

With the current insecurity in the country, the Children’s Day’s celebration which is usually carried out in open places like stadiums are no longer being enjoyed by the children.

A student of Capville School, Abuja, Chioma Azubuike, said it was always a fun day for them due to “no studies”.

“I always enjoy the activities with my friends, especially because it is more of an outdoor event, and most times if you are lucky to participate in some competition you may likely win a prize,” she said.

Another student, Felix of GSS Karu, said Children’s day was a holiday for him because he did not go to school on that day.

He said their school did not have any special programme on that day.

“I wish we could also have some activities like most private schools do, we are not aware of why the day is celebrated, we only know it is a free day,” he said.

The Chairman of Voyage International School, Abuja, Mr Yussuff Oriyomi, said the day should be a day to raise the discussion on the rights of the child and ask the society crucial questions on how well it was fulfilling its responsibilities to the Nigerian child.

“The government adopted the Child’s Right Act. But the awareness is grossly inadequate as we see today most of the provisions of the Child’s Rights are being violated in every sphere of our lives; from underage hawking to to physical abuse to forced sex, forced labour, among many others that are reported daily in the media,” he said.

He said the Children’s Day celebration focus should not be about celebration, but rather about upholding the children’s rights and giving them quality affordable education at least at the basic education level; which is up to JSS3

“It’s an important day to discuss the Nigerian child. The egg becomes the chicken. Without sound, well-brought up children we cannot have a future that is assured. We must take care of the child today, we must address questions surrounding their well-being, protection, safety, security and education to ensure we have happy children who will grow to become responsible adult citizens of the future to help the Nigerian dream,” he said.

According to him, in line with the practice at Voyage International School, they will be having a fun-filled day.

“We will remind our parents about their responsibilities towards their children, the duty of care they owe them, the spiritual duty to raise them on sound Islamic values and morals. We will also ensure the kids are able to catch some fun,” he said.

He added that there were many games on the school’s grounds, including horse riding, bouncing castle, FIFA PS4, football, swimming, bicycle race, storytelling, table tennis and scrabble.

The Chairman of Micray Progressive School, Lokoja, Michael Ojunugwa, said Children’s Day was a global event celebrated all over the world, but that the date for the event varied from one country to another.

He said Nigeria, since 1964, chose May 27 as its Children’s Day with the aim to improve the welfare of children in Nigeria and the world at large, adding that various events and activities were held on the day to celebrate the children.

“The future belongs to the children and the old men cannot create a future for the children without carrying them along,” he said.

He explained that Children’s Day celebration had been a national holiday with match parade at the stadiums where public and private schools came with their children, well dressed in their uniforms and took part.

“It used to be a colourful event back then, but now insecurity in many parts of the country has made most states and schools not to celebrate Children’s Day again. Only a few schools now mark the day in low key, and with COVID-19, many schools are not ready to celebrate,” he said.

He, however, noted that their school had lined up some activities to make the celebration fun for the kids with a dancing competition, spelling bee, debate and beauty queen contest.

“We are cooking for the children to come and eat and drink to cool down the exam tension,” he added.

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