…Ask incoming administration for free education, salary increase for parents, improved security
By Gabriel Dike and Braide Damiete, Lagos; Fred Ezeh, Charity Nwakudu, Abuja; Gyang Bere, Jude Dangwam, Jos; Lateef Dada, Osogbo; Joseph Obukata, Warri and Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 27, Nigerian children would join their counterparts in other countries to celebrate Children’s Day, a special day set aside by an agency of the United Nations to recognize them.
Federal and state governments, schools and organizations would roll out the drums to celebrate the children, and many activities are expected in their honour in different venues.
In Nigeria, the celebration was recognized in 1964. The occasion is also used to raise awareness on issues that affect children and how to address them.
On their special day, children are given a day off from school to celebrate the occasion with their peers. It’s an event observed and celebrated by federal and state governments, as well as schools and organizations. The theme for the 2023 celebration is “Investing in our future means investing in our children.”
Sam Edem, a 14-year-old pupil of Royal Academy International, Ifako, Lagos, said the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari administration didn’t do much for children and expects the incoming administration to pay attention to issues affecting Nigerian children.
Edem urged the incoming administration to ensure children receive quality education in private and public schools, free healthcare in government hospitals, security in schools, especially in the North, and also make their teachers happy with a better welfare scheme.
The SS1 pupil said: “My colleagues and I are expecting improved child-friendly policies by the new administration. We would be promised many things on May 27 but after that nothing would happen. The government can afford to make education and health free for children and also address the security issue in the North, which is affecting education in some states.”
Fifteen-year-old Simon Echufu of Madonna Secondary School, Idimu, Lagos, acknowledged that there are many challenges facing Nigerian children that require the attention of federal and state governments but were not addressed by the out
going administration. “Even the free meals they promised didn’t get to my school and my friends’ schools. We only heard about it from our teachers,” he said.
He listed his expectations from the incoming administration to include quality education, better healthcare services at subsidised rate, reduction of fuel price, provision of housing for the poor, stoppage of kidnapping, job creation and protection of lives and properties of Nigerians.
According to him, Nigerian children are going through difficult times because of the inability of their parents to meet their needs as as a result of being out of job, irregular payment of salaries, and high cost of living. He said: “I want the new government to make things better for our parents and change the situation in the country.”
Victory Onuchukwu, a Basic 6 pupil of Rising Sun Children School, Egbe, Lagos, welcomed the leaders on board and quickly listed his expectations of the incoming administration.
Onuchukwu also appeals for free education, noting: “The level of illiteracy is increasing, the rate of out-of-school dropout is high.” He added that the leaders should introduce policies to tackle the distortions in basic education.
Onuchukwu appealed to the incoming administration to address problems of Nigeria’s healthcare system, which he stated is in poor condition nationwide, noting: “In this modern era, our healthcare system must be well grounded and equipped with modern facilities.”
He acknowledged that Nigeria is experiencing insecurity that has resulted in wanton killings and destruction of property. The pupil appealed to the new administration to tackle security issues by the provision of security equipment to tackle crimes and other related challenges.
Mitchell Kelly Omubo, a pupil of Veulah Early Children Preparatory Academy, Kubwa, Abuja, submitted: “This year’s children’s day is going to be fun-filled because I am going to start my celebration from Saturday. I will be going out with my mummy to the park and there will be another powerful one in the church. This year’s Children’s Day will be featured in all the activities.
My mummy told me that insecurity in the country has deprived us of a lot of things like march-past and the rest of our social activities. So, I will like the government to see to the security challenges and solve the problem permanently so that we will be able to mingle with children from other schools on occasions like this. I will like to witness that march-past competition.
“There are lots of other things that I will like the government to do for us. They should endeavour to bring down the cost of school fees or even make it free so that more children can have access to basic education. Another thing is the rising cost of living, which is affecting the quality of life of the children.
“Once they start school fees drive, you will discover that most parents find it difficult to settle their children’s school fees and other bills, which is affecting their performance in the school. “Government should also look into the health sector because if we are not healthy we can’t learn. Concerning the new administration, I will want them to try and unite the country again because if there is love, we won’t be experiencing killing everywhere, which is the major reason food is expensive in the market.”
Another pupil, Mirabelle Kasha, from Gifted Hands Anointed Academy, Kubwa, Abuja, said she wants the government to improve infrastructural situations in the government-owned schools and also make education free.
She also suggested that the government should try and address the security challenges in the country because most children have stopped schooling, especially in the north because they can’t go out in their areas.
Speaking about the incoming administration, she begged for increment in salaries so that parents will be able to take care of their families.
Favour Kasha, a pupil of Gifted Hands Anointed Academy, Kubwa, Abuja, asked the government to build more quality hospitals, especially in the villages to reduce the death rate of pregnant women and children.
Kasha said good education should be made free so that more children of the less privileged would be able to acquire basic knowledge. She appealed to the incoming administration to try and change the fortunes of the country for good, making education free and also putting in place things and policies that would encourage the people to like brothers and sisters.
In their contributions, kids in Plateau State called for more attention from the government in safeguarding them amidst rising insecurity in the state and the country in general as they mark 2023 Children’s Day.
Nanman Thomas, a 17-year-old SS3 student of St. Piran Day High School and Headboy of the school expressed concern for the safety of the Nigerian child and the need for the provision of quality education in the state.
“For education to be conducive for the Nigerian child, the environment must be secured, I’m talking of security matters here. Education for the Nigerian child in this country has not been given adequate attention. Government policies and the economy are factors that are affecting the education sector for the Nigerian child. The government is not putting the required infrastructure to aid children learning.
“There is a record that most Nigerian children are out of school due to economic factors. Some parents cannot afford to sponsor their children’s education in good schools like the way I’m opportune to have. But I believe that if government can make provision for free education, this will provide an opportunity for such children to study and acquire knowledge, and this will bring huge development in the area of education for the Nigerian child in the state. “Concerning the state of healthcare for the Nigerian child, I can say it is improving because of the healthcare insurance contributory scheme in Plateau State.”
He made his expectations of the incoming leaders thus: “For me as a Nigerian child, my expectation from the incoming leaders in the state is to come up with new programmes and not rely on the past ones that will form and inculcate a new society whereby we will experience growth and development. And it also should improve the state’s economy as well as improve security because the environment has to be secured first for every citizen before we can have a good education.
“My appeal for the incoming governor of Plateau State is to support the education of the Nigerian child because good education leads to a better society. If every Nigerian child should be educated, there will be a low level of illiteracy and the Nigerian child will not be used for negative things in the state.”
Also, Nwagwu Chinaza Favour, a 15-year- old SS student of St. Piran’s Anglican Day High School in Jos, who bared her mind on this year’s Children’s Day, insisted that free education by the government must be seen to be of quality. “I believe Children’s Day is the day that children need to be celebrated and their voices also need to be heard.
“To be honest, the state of education in this country is not encouraging for the Nigerian child. I am in a reputable school like this, but there are children who don’t have this privilege or to even be in any public school.
“In Plateau State today, teachers in public schools are on strike, which means they won’t be able to meet up with their curriculum as we are opportune to have here because of the strike, and is a thing of concern for the Nigerian child.
“There are some parts of this country that have better healthcare system for the Nigerian child, but there are some that have not. For those who cannot afford three square meals per day, handling healthcare by their parents is not easy at all. And I think healthcare should be something that whenever you’re sick you can access care in any hospital or pharmacy very easily and not on a high side in terms of cost.
“Provision of security is the responsibility of government, and whenever the environment is not peaceful, it affects the Nigerian child. For example in Plateau State, there were attacks in the Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State, children are at the receiving end because they will be traumatized and won’t be able to go to school again until peace returns; some of them had their parents and loved ones killed.
“So, it’s unfortunate that the common man doesn’t have security except for those in the high class because they have money to hire security to protect them. So, in a school like this, you can’t say your security is guaranteed because we had cases of school children abducted in this country and I think more attention should be given to securing the Nigerian child in the State.”
For the young Favour, “my expectation for the incoming governor of Plateau State, when he is sworn-in on is that he should try and put more attention to the security sector because without security there won’t be good education and healthcare. So, more attention should be given to the security aspect, and then healthcare is followed by education because education cannot be more important than health and healthcare cannot be more important than security. With security, you can achieve all those ones.”
Nmachi Okechukwu, an eight-year-old pupil of Marygold International School, Elelenwo, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said: “There are many children who are not able to go to school because their parents do not have enough money to pay their school fees. When these children fall sick, it is also difficult to take them to the hospital, as their parents are unable to pay for their treatments. So they stay at home and can get worse, miss school activities, or even die when the sickness continues for a long time.
“There are some parts of Nigeria where children are not able to go to school because of security problems. Many children have been kidnapped or killed in these areas of the country. Parents are now afraid to send their children to school there. The security problems also affect farmers and traders negatively. These people are not able to get enough money to pay for school fees and hospital treatments.
“Bad roads also make it difficult for people to move around easily. Vehicles struggle to move people, farm products, and other goods to markets and places where they are needed.
“Many markets are also in poor conditions. No good drainages and waste management at the markets too. All these make it difficult for people to make a decent living and provide for the basic needs of children.
“We need the government to help our parents care for us. We cannot become leaders of tomorrow if our parents are not able to provide for our education, health, security, and many other things needed to help us grow and learn well.
“Since many parents struggle to make enough money due to reasons mentioned earlier, the government can make education and healthcare services free and accessible at least for children in primary and secondary schools. This is already happening in some African countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Egypt and others. Nigeria should not be an exception.
“I expect the incoming government to consider these problems of Nigeria and find a way to tackle them for the safety of children. Many public schools are in bad condition, the new government should rebuild them and improve teachers’ welfare so that more people can become teachers too.
“Public hospitals should be given adequate attention by the new government. Medications should be made available in these hospitals and better equipped to handle some serious medical cases like cancer and stroke.
“Medical staff should also be well taken care of, as we are currently losing most of the qualified ones to other countries. Security should be seriously improved so that farming and many businesses can resume in some parts of Nigeria. People are also afraid to travel by road to some parts of Nigeria because of insecurity and bad roads. The new government should look into these problems and find lasting solutions for them.
“It is important to also improve facilities such as electricity supply, markets, railways, ports, and many others to help improve the current standard of living and future wellbeing of children.
“I expect the new government to put all hands on deck to help move our nation forward to become the great country we have been blessed to be.”
Aina Akingbola, a JSS3 student of Rising Sun High School, Egbe, Lagos, reminded our leaders that children are the future leaders of the country. Thus adequate attention must be given to issues that affecting them.
The pupil said: “The Nigerian child desires a country where he or she can walk freely to school, marketplaces, centers of worship, and visit friends and loved ones without fear of insecurity and molestation.
“We want a Nigeria where every child’s desires are taken care of, a country where the voices of children are heard and taken into consideration. We want a Nigeria where the rights of children are respected, not violated. We desire a nation, where the future of the children is guaranteed.”
Akingbola demanded free education and healthcare services for children, tackling corruption, stoppage of harmful practices against children, and good governance.
A Basic 6 pupil of Rising Sun Children School, Agodo-Egbe, Lagos, Paul Onwubuya, like others, reminded the incoming administration that quality education is paramount to Nigerian children, stating: “We want a Nigeria where every child gets access to quality education. We want a country where there are good learning facilities and dedicated teachers, who are well remunerated and motivated to impart knowledge on the young minds.”
Onwubuya also demanded for free healthcare with good hospitals and improvement of the security situation in the country. He wants the new helmsman to dialogue with Boko Haram and others involved in wanton killings to halt the deadly attacks on people and schools.
In her contribution, Odinala Somtochukwu, a JSS3 3 student of Rising Sun High School, Agodo-Egbe, Lagos, said free education depends on the school a child is attending and advised the incoming government to improve the quality of education.
She acknowledged the lack of access to health services in the country and the poor funding of the sector. On security, the pupil said children are victims of insecurity in the country such as the Chibok girls who were kidnapped from their school.
Odinaka stated that poverty has affected nearly every aspect of child development, including education, nutrition, safety, and hygiene, regretting that governments are doing little or nothing to curb it.
“As a female child with aspirations and desires to impact society, I would like the government to improve on the educational standards for girls and ensure that both the male and female child are treated equally,” Odinaka stated.
Munachi Adaba, a primary school pupil of BrainBells School, Oluti, Lagos said: ” The government in Nigeria can help children go to school for free, get good medical care, and be safe. But sometimes it’s hard for the government to do this because there are problems like people doing bad things, such as corruption, insecurity and an underdeveloped economy, not enough money, and not enough things to help. To make it happen, the government needs to really want to do it, make good plans, and do things in the right way.
“I would expect the new government to make education a top priority. They would want good teachers, books, and materials to learn with. They would also want new schools built, and existing schools improved with clean water and functional toilets. Girls should also have the same opportunity to go to school as boys.
“I would also expect the new government to make Nigeria a safer place. They would want more police officers to protect them from crime and violence. They would want to feel safe going to school, playing outside, and traveling with their families.
“I would also want the new government to help reduce poverty. They would want their families and communities to have access to jobs, healthcare and social welfare programmes. They would also want vulnerable children, such as those affected by conflict or who are orphaned to be protected.
“Finally, I would want the new government to be honest and work for the good of the people. They would want an end to corruption and for public resources to be used for the benefit of the citizens. They would want leaders who are transparent and accountable.”
Chinwe Chigbu, an 11- year-old girl, added: “Children are set to celebrate Children’s Day on Saturday, May 27. After which on May 29, a new president will be sworn in for a tenure of four years. As the new government prepares for the task ahead, on behalf of Nigerians’ children, I want to appeal to consider making education free in primary and secondary schools. This is because Nigerian children are not able to access education because of how expensive it is.
“My parents told me that during their days in primary school, education was free and they didn’t pay for books and levies. I wonder what led to the payment of books and levies today.
“Information from the media has drawn my attention to the fact that health care services are expensive which makes many citizens without good income unable to afford quality health services. I know a family friend whose father borrowed a large sum of money to pay for his family health care service at a government hospital, which ordinarily should be cheap and affordable.
“For security, I find it disturbing that the level of insecurity in the country is on the increase. Some people travel by road either in the morning or at night and they are not safe from kidnappers or bandits.
“This has made prices of food skyrocket as farmers are not able to go to their farms freely without being kidnapped, killed or they are forced to pay tributes to bandits.
“The other needs of Nigerian children include constant electricity, good roads and infrastructure, social amenities which are urgently needed to be in place in order to make life meaningful for Nigerians children.
“My expectations for the incoming government is for them to ensure that there are good hospitals which will enable citizens to have access to good medical care easily and affordable.
“For education, they should ensure that it is made free so that children who are on the streets or out of school can go back to school and become good citizens when they grow up. In terms of security, this should be the main priority of the incoming government, as it will help to provide stability in various sectors of the economy.”
Ndaguba Abundance Chiemerigo said: “I cannot raise my hope about it, anything is possible if we have good leaders. Maybe in the next general elections in 2027, if a good leader is elected and the government can do it to make the country better.
“One of the problems is the tax paid by workers is not remitted to the right sources, which is meant to provide basic amenities. It goes into the pockets of civil servants or corrupt politicians who use it to buy houses, cars and other things. “They also use the money to treat themselves abroad when they fall sick. I don’t think the incoming government can provide free health care services, security and education in the country because the resources may not be available to take care of all these things.
“I don’t have any hope about the incoming government because people do say that they cannot do anything better but they are sure that the main opposition party can do better. People express their opinion due to their preferred candidates and anybody can make the country better.
“I don’t think my expectations are high from the incoming government because during the tenure of the outgoing government, the expectations were high and people thought the president was going to make a difference but at the end of the day, he created more problems for the country. The incoming government is from the same political party and there may be no difference.”
A Junior Secondary School student of Osun State Unity School, Osogbo, Hassan Hauwa, said it is not too much for the government to provide good health, education, and security for the citizens.
She said: “My father said he did not pay for school. So, we should not be paying school fees. Government should provide good hospitals and roads.
“I want the government to provide books, writing materials, food and lockers for us in our school. They should also take care of our teachers very well. The government should also help our brothers and sisters that are not in school and let them go to school.”
A pupil of God Success Primary School, Osogbo, Emmanuel Favour, said the government should make food affordable, and provide free education and a good health care system.
“We want the incoming president to take care of workers, particularly our teachers, and pay their salary as and when due. The government should also stop the kidnapping and killing of people all over the place and make life comfortable for us,” Favour stressed.
Some schools children in Warri lend their voices to their expectations of the new administration expected to be sworn in on May 29.
Our correspondent who went round some public and private schools in Warri, Effurun, and Udu to seek the opinion of school children on the celebration, reports that it was mixed feelings for the children as most of them think governments across the federation have not yet placed priority on issues concerning Nigerian children.
Specifically, the children maintained that the government at the state and federal levels have not provided a favourable environment in which children can realize and release their full potential.
A visit to Cradle Bridge School in Ekete- Inland, Udu local government area of the state, shows the children were in high spirits for the celebration but expressed worry if a new administration at the state and the federal level would be able to tackle issues of free education, health and security for Nigeria’s children.
Oghenevwaire Obukowho, 15, Senior Secondary School (SS 2), believes that nothing spectacular would change with respect to the government providing free education, health, security, and other needs of Nigerian children. According to her, the federal and state governments have not shown the genuine will to revamp those sectors.
She argued that the reason things seemed not to be working for Nigeria’s children was because government has not placed priority on “our case” and has failed to fully implement the Child Rights Act in line with 2030 SDGs.
“I really hope this new administration would be able to tackle these issues plaguing us as a people and children. I hope they should be able to take care of our healthcare, grant us free and adequate education and provide us security for the life of children and every single person in Nigeria. The government, in time past failed in these areas, it has not been good but we hope for the best from this new administration.
“We have heard stories of hoodlums going to public schools to kidnap school children and I think it’s the result of lack of adequate security. Government should endeavour to provide adequate security around schools whether private or public schools. They should beef up security, and deploy patrol personnel around schools while school authorities should install close circuit cameras on the school premises.
“I equally enjoin governments to ensure that children of learning age are in school. It is their right to be in school and not loitering. There should be a policy plan to stop loitering and check if there are children of school age who are supposed to be in school but loitering or being abused at home,” she said.
Jeremiah Ejairu, a 15-year-old SS 2 student of Cradle Bridge School, expressed concern over the failure of the government at the federal and state levels to provide free education for school children, saying that the government has not lived up to its responsibility as enshrined in the constitution.
He blamed the government for the scourge of extortion in public schools, saying that the government was not paying teachers in public schools enough hence stories of extortion are prevalent in public schools.
“The increase in the rate of illiteracy in Nigeria today is a result of the menace of extortion of school children at the public schools. Some parents can’t afford it hence we have a number of children of school age who are at home. So we hope that there would be improvement when the new administration comes on board.
“In the area of healthcare, I think the government still needs to do more and deploy trained personnel to schools and ensure adequate healthcare and vaccinate the children as at when due. Not all parent are acknowledgeable to know when their kids need to be vaccinated, so if the government strengthens the sector, we will have improved healthcare for children.”
He urged the government to create more awareness around schools and equally strengthen security. He lamented that the burden on parents and guardians are too much, urging the next government to improve the economy, reduce fuel pump price and tackle the power sector because, according to him, it’s unfortunate that parents are left to provide virtually everything for them unlike what is attainable in developed clime.
“I think if the new administration is not corrupt, if they truly do things with patriotism they can achieve adequate power supply for us, and provide us good healthcare and security. If they try to improve the power supply in these areas because some areas don’t have light for two or three years. So, if they truly tackle these areas, Nigerian children will be very happy with them and they may have helped reduce the load our parents bear.
“So, my expectations are that if the government can improve the economy, improve the power sector, reduce fuel price, things would be easier for citizens”, he added.
Children in Benue State also called on the government to take proactive measures to ensure free education, quality healthcare, and security of children for the good of the state and nation.
A junior secondary school student, Jose Sesugh, appealed to the state government, especially the incoming governor-elect, Rev Fr. Hyacinth Alia, to make education free for primary and secondary school children to minimize the number of out-of-school children in the state.
Sesugh noted that most of his friends he started school with have been skipping classes while some have withdrawn totally due to the inability of their parents to pay their fees.
“Some of my mates have changed schools and some have stopped coming because of school fees. Sometimes, the school asked the children to go home when lessons are going on. So many people miss classes and it affects them. If we have free education, everyone will like to come to school. Some also skip school due to sickness and when they are sick, parents are called to come and pick them up because schools can’t afford the price of the medication.
“I also see many children in IDP on the street who do not go to school and there is no father or mother. I also hear of children kidnapped on the street, so I expect to want our in-coming governor to provide security in the state so that people will be free to move about, especially children,” he said.
Also speaking, a student, Prosper Baaki, urged the government to make education free for all children, provide them with learning materials and improve the facilities and infrastructure in the schools.
“We need our new governor to renovate our schools, give us good chairs and desks. We need more classroom and writing materials and textbooks.
“We also need the new government to help our parents to make a living so they can take care of us; pay their salaries or help them to develop their farms. Most children come to school and every time they embark on school fees drive, they must drive them because they have not paid.
“Others come to school without eating breakfast and when the lesson is going on, they don’t concentrate in class. If the parents have money, they will feed the children well, so we are appealing to the new administration to pay our parents so they can buy food and pay other bills,” he said.