Nigerian Children’s Day: A Call to Action in the BEST INTEREST of our Precious Nigerian Children

By Chineye Toulassi

Nigerian Children’s Day is not just a celebration but also a sobering reminder of the challenges faced by children across the nation. It serves as an opportunity to reflect on the current state of Nigerian children, recognise their resilience, and commit to ensuring a brighter future for them.

Statistics on the Plight of Nigerian Children
Despite progress in some areas, the plight of Nigerian children remains alarming. According to the report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) titled ‘Nigeria Child Labour Survey 2022,’ it was revealed that 24.6 million children in the country are engaged in child labour. The survey indicates that more than 20.1 million are between 5 and 14 years old, while over 4.5 million are aged 15 to 17.

Additionally, UNICEF reported last year that 35 million children under five suffer from malnutrition, with 12 million experiencing stunted growth, 3 million facing wasting, and 23.5 million being anaemic, with stunting rates only decreasing by 1.4% annually.

Nigeria also has approximately 20 million out-of-school children, as per UNESCO data. The country witnessed a 5% increase in violent cases against children from 2016 to 2021, according to the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) by UNICEF.

Child poverty is rampant, with millions of children living in households below the poverty line, lacking access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, and education. Furthermore, violence against children, including child labour, trafficking, and sexual abuse, remains prevalent, posing significant threats to their well-being and future prospects.

Lessons for Parents

  • Prioritise education: Parents must recognise the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering children to fulfil their potential. They should ensure that their children have access to a quality education and create a conducive learning environment at home.
  • Foster Child Participation: Children should be actively involved in decision-making processes that affect their lives, allowing them to voice their opinions, express their concerns, and contribute to shaping policies and programmes that impact them directly.

Lessons for Government

  • Investment in Education: Prioritize funding and resources towards improving the quality of education, ensuring access to schools, and addressing issues such as child labor that hinder educational opportunities.
  • Healthcare Access: Ensure access to affordable and quality healthcare services, including immunizations, maternal care, and nutrition programs to reduce child mortality rates and improve overall health outcomes.
  • Child Protection Policies: Implement and enforce robust and uniform child protection laws and policies to safeguard children from abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and early marriage.
  • Poverty Alleviation: Implement strategies to alleviate poverty and provide social safety nets for families, and job creation initiatives, to reduce vulnerability and improve the well-being of children.
  • Access to Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure access to clean water and sanitation facilities to prevent waterborne diseases and improve overall health outcomes for children.
  • Awareness and Sensitization: Conduct public awareness campaigns to educate communities about children’s rights, the importance of education, healthcare, and protection from abuse.
  • Strengthening Institutions: Strengthen government institutions responsible for child welfare, including social welfare agencies, juvenile justice systems, and educational bodies, to ensure effective implementation of policies and programs.

Lessons for Society

  • Protect Children’s Rights: Society must work together to protect children from all forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse. This requires enforcing laws and policies that safeguard children’s rights, providing support services for victims, and raising awareness to prevent future incidents.
  • Community Engagement: Foster community involvement and partnerships to address local challenges affecting children, including promoting positive parenting practices and community-based support systems.

As Nigeria commemorates Children’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to the well-being and future of Nigerian children. By prioritising education, healthcare, child protection, welfare, and participation, we can create a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society where every child can thrive and fulfil their potential. The future of Nigeria depends on the investments we make in our children today.

Source of image: UNICEF Nigeria

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