Thursday, June 17, 2010

United Nations, Others Bemoan Plight of the African Child

UN, others bemoan plight of the African child .

Thursday, 17 June 2010 00:00 From Anietie Akpan (Calabar), Betram Nwannekanma (Lagos), Hendrix Oliomogbe (Asaba) and Tunji Omofoye (Osogbo)

AT various fora within and outside the continent, the plight of the African child yesterday engaged the attention of global organisations and leaders who called for a better deal for them.
Nigeria did not fare well in the United Nations (UN) assessment of measures adopted by the Federal Government to protect the rights of its children.

Every June 16, the Day of the African Child, is observed globally to draw attention to the worsening plight of kids in the continent.
Its origin is traced to the massacre of Soweto children, who were protesting the inferior education by the then apartheid South African regime on June 16, 1976.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said Nigeria’s performance on birth registration, the definition of the child, health services for kids, adoption, witchcraft accusations, education, provision for street children, child-trafficking, economic and sexual exploitation and child rights and the business sector was unimpressive.

In a statement yesterday, Dr. Emilie Secker of Research and Advocacy Stepping Stones Nigeria, which work with the CRC on children’s rights, urged Nigeria to disseminate “information about child’s rights, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Nigerian Child Rights Act 2003 throughout the country so that parents and communities would be well-informed about children’s rights.

The UN however congratulated the Federal Government on the steps it had taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Programme Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, Mr. Gary Foxcroft, said: “Today (yesterday), we celebrate the Day of the African Child. The concluding observations of the CRC are a fantastic opportunity to focus on the rights of the Nigerian child. We look forward to working with the federal and state governments as well as with other civil society bodies to make sure that the recommendations of the CRC are fully implemented.”

He said the event was a major opportunity for Nigeria to consider how far the rights of her children are being protected.

Also, Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has lamented that children’s exploitation still exists in the African continent and urged collaboration among stakeholders to check the trend.

Represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN), at the Day of the African Child celebration yesterday in Asaba, Uduaghan noted with sadness that the goals set by the UN and the African Union (AU) on the implementation of the rights of the child were still far from being achieved.

He said: “Various forms of exploitation of children still exist through child abuse and neglect, which have given rise to the violation of the rights of the child.

“In spite of our sustained efforts at reducing the level of poverty in society, it still looms large with the attendant adverse effects on the well-being and development of the African child.”

In Lagos, the chairperson of the state branch of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Chigoziri Ojiaka, appealed to government at all levels to take every aspect of child development seriously to improve on the living conditions of Nigerian children.

Ojiaka, who is also the founder of Gender and Child Rights Initiatives, who spoke on “Maximising the power of character in achieving academic excellence and credible leadership” to mark the day, called for assistance for the Nigerian child in the areas of health and education, which she said, had degenerated due to rising poverty in the country.

She said: “A lot of children are still not in school, because their parents cannot afford to pay their school fees. I want government to put in place policies that will ensure that the African is a responsible and an empowered adult.”

Pupils of Sunshine Nursery and Primary School, Ile-Ife, Osun State, who joined their colleagues to mark the day, called on the authorities to be more pro-active to their welfare to brighten their chances as future leaders.

They drew attention to the growing cases of child-trafficking, under-funding of the education sector, early marriage, poverty, teenage prostitution and other forms of child abuse in the country.

The pupils further charged Nigerian leaders to make the development of the child a priority in the national agenda.

President of the School Press Club, Esther Oladele, who organised the event, said they were moved by the gory sight of a movie they watched about the Soweto killing of black children, who were protesting discrimination in the quality of education between white and black children.

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