Today is Children’s Day. It is a day when Nigerian children are celebrated by all and sundry as an important segment of society and the future of the nation. The day draws attention to issues affecting children and attempts to rally support from stakeholders on how to address them. More than anytime in history, the Nigerian child has become an endangered species. A day like this reminds us that it is not yet Uhuru for the Nigerian child, and efforts should be redoubled to give succour to the young.

Unlike the UNICEF International Day for Children, celebrated every November 20 to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improve children’s fortunes, Children’s Day in Nigeria is celebrated every May 27. The occasion is elaborately marked with fine speeches on how to improve the welfare of Nigerian children as well as children-centred activities.

As Children’s Day is celebrated today, the government must ensure that no Nigerian child is left out of the school system. There should be rigorous effort by all tiers of government to bring to the classroom the 20 million Nigerian children who are still outside the school system. In 2022, about 43.04 per cent of Nigeria’s total population were aged 0 to 14 years. This is a reminder that ours is a young society that should be well nurtured. When children are celebrated, they tend to refrain from anti-social activities. We urge television and radio stations to encourage more children’s programmes, which will sharpen their creativity. Making some gifted children to act as governors in some states for a day should be encouraged. Doing so will inspire other children to be ambitious in life.

As we celebrate the Nigerian Children’s Day today, let the government use the occasion to remember underprivileged children and do something to enhance their welfare. Taking care of these children will make them useful members of society.

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The relevance of children in the society has been underscored by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. According to him, “around the world, children are showing us their strength and leadership advocating for a more sustainable world for all. Let’s build on advances and re-commit to putting children first.” Celebrating the children on a day like this is a good idea, but addressing the many problems besetting Nigerian children is of paramount importance. 

Today, the rights of Nigerian children are under attack. The right to shelter and protection has been jeopardised by unending insecurity in the land. Thousands of Nigerian children have lost their parents and loved ones who should protect them from atrocities by terrorists and other non-state actors. Many have become vagabonds, because their homes have been destroyed by natural disasters and violence, some abandoned by their parents after birth.

We should be relentless in investing in our children’s education. The large number of out-of-school-children is unacceptable. UNICEF statistics show that one out of  five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria, despite primary education being free and compulsory.  About 10.5 million of the country’s children aged five to 14 years are said to be out of school, especially in the northern part of the country. It is worrisome that only 61 percent of 6-11-year-olds in the country regularly attend primary school. Also, UNICEF reveals that only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.

Since education is key to a better future, the government should create an enabling environment for education to thrive and improve the quality of education for our children. Cultural, economic and religious barriers that stop children from getting compulsory education should be urgently addressed. Many Nigerian children are also contending with poverty, discriminatory practices, right to health care, child abuse, child marriage, child trafficking, female genital mutilation and infant mortality. Government, corporate bodies and individuals should leave no stone unturned until the condition of the Nigerian child attains a universal standard. We wish Nigerian children a happy Children’s Day celebration.

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