As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of our work for children, UNICEF invited writers from all over the world to pen a short story on the theme ‘what I want for every child’. More than 200 authors answered the call, 19 of them from Nigeria, weaving their vision of a world in which all children enjoy the right to survive and thrive, to learn and to grow up healthy and safe from harm.
Here is a selection of their tiny but powerful stories of courage, anger, love – and, most of all, for every child, hope.
Share the ones that inspire you, and join by sharing your own tiny story on Facebook, using the hashtag #foreverychild.
Aha! Quality EDUCATION for every child!
by Betty Abah
What I want for every child?
That to many seems so light
And they treat with such slight
But without it, life's a bore, a blight!
Aha! Quality EDUCATION for every child!
Nothing less, dear, for that's just what's right!
From coast to coast, scream, beam's HOPE's Light!
For every child, the right to financial literacy
by Gbonjubola Sanni
Gbolade, a very promising child, got the best education possible.
He also got tutelage that led to early self-discovery.
All of this helped him to develop a great career.
He also had a good life until his boat was rocked.
He was daunted by money issues;
But his quest for a good life led him to the answer.
He was shocked to discover that the solution was financial literacy
A woman? too young to be; thirteen
by William Ifeanyi Moore
She woke up next to him;
Body aching from being;
Too young to be;
She made him kneel at the backyard and threatened to send him back to the village
by Ukamaka Olisakwe
Onyema flipped through her son’s report card, a smile peeling her lips back for the first time that evening. She had survived a long day at work and returned to find her new houseboy, Ebuka, loitering in her husband’s study, running his unwashed hands over carefully shelved books. She made him kneel at the backyard and threatened to send him back to the village the coming Christmas to continue toiling in his widowed mother’s farm.
“Mummy, did I do well at school,” her son, Chukwualuka asked.
“I am so proud of you, nna and I promise to get you anything you ask of me now – just say it,” she replied, snapping the report card shut and pulling him to her chest.
“Can Ebuka come to school with me,” Chukwualuka said, his face breaking into a brilliant smile. “He comes into my room every night to help me with my homework because you and daddy are always tired - can he come with me, please?”
I want every child to sleep with two eyes shut
by Toni Kan
She feels the door creak and one eye snaps open
She hears the familiar creaking of the hinges,
Then heavy steps and heavy breathing
Her palms grow clammy and her throat tightens as she pulls her legs together
He stands by her bed, his shadow falling over her like a shroud
She dies again and again as he settles on the bed and reaches for her
A million more deaths later, she lies there, the tears blinding her
I’m hoping for the child that becomes a dignifying leader
by Sumaila Umaisha
I’d like to see a child that bears the fruits of our past and present labour. I’m hoping for the child that becomes a dignifying leader who will re-invent the ailing present into a colourful future. The kind of leader in whose hand religion will not be an instrument of death and destruction, but a tool for the promotion of peace and unity. In the child, I want a leader to whom education will be a pedestal for development rather than an opportunity for the perpetration of corruption and negative political manipulations. I crave for a child who will be proud to sing the national anthem from the heart and in deeds, not in words alone. The child I’d like to see is that who, like a flag waving proudly in the air, represent the true spirit of the nation and humanity in general. And I wish for this child a future so homely, he would feel at home to carry out his responsibilities for the children yet unborn.
I want a world where the rights of children are recognized and upheld
by Chido Onumah
At the age of 8, Moco’s parents left her in the care of a 70-year-old widow.
Moco’s guardian made her do hard jobs like crushing stones.
She prevented Moco from attending school.
She set targets for her.
Whenever Moco missed her targets, she was forced to sleep outside
Children don’t deserve to be treated like adults.
I want a world where the rights of children are recognized and upheld.
For every child, the right to dream
by Bolatito Ariyo Osoko
DOWN in the deep, mutilated parts of the Niger-Delta creeks, it was cold and foggy.
Ejiro, a pretty unassuming 10year old orphan, with a smooth & youthful face had a dream.
In the dream, Ejiro accomplished her life long aspiration of becoming a Paediatrician.
"Wake up", her eldest brother woke her interjecting her dream with his croaky but slick voice.
It was 6am, Ejiro stretched on her tattered raffia mat, wiping the sleep off her heavy eyes with her little right palm.
Suddenly she muttered "I can be what I want to be".
Excitedly, she took her raffia mat and prepared for school.
by BM Dzukogi
Let me live…
“Touch my legs, touch my arms, and feel the heat, in my bones. Drop a coin, drop a word, and remove the pains, I want to live. I want to live, and feel my legs, feel my arms, like you do, to your dreams. I have dreams, I want to live, to touch the sky, hold the mountain, and pull its ears, to my knees. This is the dream, I want to live”
But Hajara; a 200L Medical student died, she couldn’t raise enough money for her bone marrow transplantation.
I want every child to be protected by adults....
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I want every child to go to sleep well-fed
And not worry about the next meal
Or the next.
I want every child to have primary healthcare.
I want every child to be protected by adults
And to take for granted the kindness of adults
And never to be treated like adults
For every child, the right to a secure tomorrow
by Ifeoma Theodre Jnr.
It was no abduction; rather, I was sold off by my parents, to a woman, who said, in return for domestic work as a minder to her children, she'd sponsor my education. Sold off, because, cash was exchanged to seal the deal.
She turned me into a sex slave to older men, who used me for their sexual gratification, and my education? Learning how to keep them satisfied. It's scary staying in a country where I can neither speak nor understand their language, and have no way of contacting my family. Ever since I was diagnosed with HIV, my Madame has abandoned me to the streets where I beg for alms to survive. At age 13, my fate has been decided?
For every child, the right against torture
by Ayo Sogunro
Whoosh—one—and a familiar feeling of injustice rips through me; but the enemy would get nothing.
Whoosh—two—I count, happy to see I wasn’t going to break, taking my secrets to the grave.
Whoosh—three—the life of a child is short, I think, and a thankless commitment to pain.
Whoosh—four—the pain floods me, but soldier-like, I bite my lips so no one will hear me cry.
Whoosh—Six—I hate that I am crying, but no one can control pain that comes from the inside.
Whoosh—seven—seven lashes of the koboko, I think, but this is no way to treat a child.
#ForEveryChild the right against torture.
For every child, a right to dream
by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
"I was shelling some groundnuts earlier when your daughter came to ask me how long it would take for these to grow into trees." She held out her hand and in her wrinkly palm lay tree orange seeds. "I told her three to six years. But you know Zahra, she is already dreaming of lying in the shade of the tree on her seventeenth birthday and watch the sun through the leaves."
He chuckled. "Ayaya! Maama, Zahra has always been a dreamer. No one has time to plant trees and lazy under them on her birthday. And you know Alhaji wants the wedding to be in two weeks."
She put a hand on her back and grimaced as she lowered herself onto a stool. "Well, you see, about this marriage business..."
"Maama, we've been through this before. Zahra is fourteen and I don't have the money to send her to school. Can you imagine how much that would cost, with this roof leaking and the rear wall crumbling? Alhaji has promised to pay for her education if he married her."
She scoffed. "Which of his two wives has he sponsored to school?" She unknotted the end of her wrapper to reveal a tight package which she threw to him. "I am old. I don't remember what I was saving that money for. But it might just be that I was saving it for Zahra."
"See, I was married off at her age. I had you and your siblings. That was my dream then and I thank God for his favours. But Zahra, her dream is to go to school, plant trees in her father's house and pluck the fruit by the time she turns seventeen. You and I will see to it that the girl plants her trees, won't we?"
For Every Child, the right to free, clean and potable water
by Wale Okediran
As a child, the sight and sound of running water from public taps was a delight to me. Free water and not that paid for, is the right of every child. With clean and potable water, mothers will be able to keep the house and the children clean and healthy. With free water, mothers and children will save valuable hours that would have been used to search for water. With potable water, diseases such as cholera, dysentery, schistosomiasis among others, will be a thing of the past. With free water, money that would have been used to purchase water or used to treat diseases will be used for other pressing issues.
At ten years old, she simply ‘grew up’
by Seun Odukoya
I miss my daughter.
No; she isn’t dead, nor is she getting married or moving out of my house and my life.
At ten years old, she simply ‘grew up’.
She no longer runs to me when I get to see her after a while; she no longer asks questions like she used to – in fact; she’s lost interest in a lot of things she used to care about. There’s a kind of ‘seriousness’ about her that unnerves me and makes me wonder just what is going on with her.
My little girl grew up too quickly; she just grows older these days, a victim of lost innocence. And I miss that.
A world where every child has a home, a sanctuary where their innocence is protected
by Sadeeq Dzukogi
''Every so often, I dream of a world where every child has a home, a sanctuary where their innocence is protected. I dream of a world where children are free to dream, where a child don’t have to witness a parent being cut off the family tree by sectarian or any sort of violence. I dream of a world where every child especially the girl-child, is taught and encouraged to dream.''
Every child has to do their own growing up
by Kingsley Iweka
Dare to Be!
I didn’t spend a lot of time with my Grandfather growing up as a child, and I am not like him in many regards. Last Christmas he turned 90 and I went home to celebrate with him. Being with him that holiday season made it clear to me that as one gets older, staying young becomes a whole lot more difficult. Every child has to do their own growing up, no matter how tall or short your Grandfather was. One of the beautiful things about childhood is that you are too young to realise that certain things are impossible. This is why you would dream, believe and dare to do them anyway. Your heart is free and you should have the courage to follow it…this is what I want #ForEveryChild.
For every child, the right to learn from mistakes
Constance Omawumi Kola-Lawal
When I was eight, I saw a bright red storybook on the top level of my father’s bookshelf. How was I to know that I couldn’t safely reach that book by standing on a nearby swivel chair with wheels? Quite unsurprisingly, I ended up on the other side of the room. On the floor.
We all learn through mistakes. If we truly believe that knowledge, wisdom and maturity are gained from the experience of making mistakes, we should not deny children that privilege. Children’s mistakes, both big and small, are lessons, and opportunities for every child in the world to mature.
I want every child to feel loved and secure, to have the basics of life
by Ayo Ayoola-Amale
In great love and caring i found my own fullness. My true spirit of freedom, justice and life want every child to live in great love and care, to have the basics of life - like healthy food, warmth, shelter, clothing, excellent and holistic education, peace, fun times, joy, laughter, and big hugs. To feel loved and secure so that they can thrive, believe in themselves, have confidence/self-esteem, healthy positive attitude to life, be strong and safe. Children are a becoming. In essence, i want all children to become themselves, to become quality human beings, exemplary; fully conscious human beings – being human, serving God, loving humanity and having a sense of community.
Of Great Love is all I am.