Children's Day 2008: Making Nigeria fit for our children
Abuja, May 27, 2008 - As Nigeria marked International Children’s Day on May 27 with the theme “A Nigeria fit for children: A call for renewal of commitment”, the underlying question remains, ‘How fit is Nigeria for children?’
Typically, the day is set aside as a holiday for children and for some privileged few, that is all it is – a fun day off from school, sometimes engaged in the many activities that are characteristic of the day.
For many other children, however, it is just a day like any other – another day living below the poverty line; another day struggling to make enough money to feed themselves and often, other members of their families; another day living on the streets and working menial jobs to survive; another day facing the risk of being sold and trafficked; another day being abused, maltreated and exploited; another day sick with no access to health care; another day with no clean water or electricity. To these kids, it doesn’t matter that it’s Children’s Day. It makes no difference to them that the day is a holiday because these kids don’t go to school anyway.
Children’s Day in Nigeria is traditionally celebrated with numerous activities across the country. Many troop to the stadium in their city to participate in parades and marches and listen to speeches from the country’s leaders. There are a variety of parties to choose from, with lots of food and dancing and games.
Traditionally, public officials address children and their parents, giving speeches about the state of the Nigerian child and making big promises of a better future. Traditionally, the condition of children in the country remains, for the most part, unchanged and the Nigerian child remains unprotected, his rights violated.
President Yar’Adua, however, said that his administration was doing everything possible to ensure children in Nigeria enjoy their rights. Represented by the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Dr. Umaru Modibbo, at the Children’s Day celebration in Abuja, President Yar’Adua, said “Our children are our future, so we must take our commitment to children seriously”. The event took place with support from UNICEF through the Ministry of Women Affairs whose Minister, Hajiya Saudatu Bungudu, urged the 18 States that had not passed the child rights bill to do so for the sake of the children.
In a goodwill message, Dr. Robert Limlim, Acting Representative UNICEF Nigeria, said the future of Nigeria depended on her children. He called for more investment in children, adding that funds from the country’s oil windfall should be set aside for specific child focus interventions.
Children from over 30 schools in and around Abuja, the country’s Federal Capital Territory, gathered at the Eagle Square grounds in Abuja for the event. Members of the Nigerian Children’s Parliament were also present at the event where children participated in a march parade, received prizes and listened to the messages of hope and promise for their futures.
As part of its commitment to working with Nigeria to ensure that the country is made fit for all children, UNICEF also joined forces with other partners to host other Children’s Day activities. In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications, an interactive session with the Minister of Information and Communications was organized to mark the day and to give children an opportunity to have their voices heard and some of their questions answered.
Present at the occasion were children from the School for Handicapped in Kuje, Abuja. The children jumped at the chance to voice out their thoughts on some of the issues affecting them and more importantly, to ask what the government was doing to address these issues and ensure a country fit for them. The children asked questions on topics ranging from children living on the streets to the erratic power supply in the country. They asked about the hidden costs that meant the Universal Basic Education system was not really as free as it ought to be and they even asked about what the government was doing to ensure peace in the country’s tension-filled Niger Delta region. The children’s discontent with the current state of affairs was evident.
More than just a day filled with fun and food, Children’s Day represents a day set aside to advocate for the rights of the child and to bring attention to the issues affecting children in our society.
At the end of the celebrations, children of all ages express in one way or the other, the hope that the promises their leaders have made to them of a better future will prove to be more than perfunctory and that there will be tangible signs of improvement. They hope that this time next year, they will really have something to celebrate on Children’s Day.
For further information, contact Media & External Relations, UNICEF Nigeria Country Office: