Opinion: What we owe our children

by Alex Enemanna

“I believe the children are our future,
Teach them well and let them lead the way,
Show them all the beauty they possess inside,
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”

These words from RnB maestro, Whitney Houston of blessed memory in her hit track- Greatest Love of  All encapsulate in a nutshell the degree of love and care the younger ones in our society deserve and need.

Children are special gifts from God as affirmed by the Holy books of glorious Qur’an and the Holy Bible.

This therefore accounts for why there is always an orgiastic giddiness and wild jubilation where and whenever a new child is born.

God in His infinite wisdom and wide generosity does not discriminate on whom to honour with this special gift. He gives freely to whom He wishes, both to the poor and the rich, the sinful and the righteous and to people of all race, colour and tongue.

Some with their riches, silver and gold go extra mile in vain search of this crown of honour for several years but to no avail until when God permits. Who says the foolishness of God is not wiser than man?

Just like men expect us to treat with unassailable dignity, care and prudence resources and property they entrust in our custody, God expects man to love cherish and carter for this all precious diamond of His that has no alternative.

The burden and the role of overseeing and caring therefore rest on the shoulder of the recipient, the parenthood. The mode and the quality of training the child is exposed to becomes concomitant with the kind of future that awaits him as Houston observed.

The murderous practice of brutally terminating their lives before they are born under any disguise is highly unthinkable except where such is backed with strong medical reasons. Only beasts in human flesh contemplate dumping them in the waste bin and sewage channels to die in the most painful and gruesome manner, a menace we are often confronted with.

Anyone who after nine painful months of pregnancy and child labour does such is a quintessential Luciferic agent. Such creatures don’t deserve a second chance to have another child at any point in their lives.

Raising the child is a huge responsibility and a herculean task. An ill-bred child portends a very serious danger to himself, the family, peers, immediate environment and the society at large.

To save the society from the hazardous disaster of a misbred child, the family, which is the first agent of socialisation the child mingles with after birth, must not treat with kid gloves the business of inculcating the positive behaviours on the child but must be taken with the uttermost seriousness it deserves.

Beyond feeding and nursing the child with the right quality and quantity of food as required by nature, the parents must ensure the child is in the right psychological state of mind and physical fitness.

He must be presented on interval basis for medical check-ups. He must be immunized at the right time as not to endanger the lives of other children.

Many in our society today bear the lifelong pain of physical challenge and deformity for a fault that is not primarily theirs but that of the parents or guardians who failed to immunize the child at the right time. This is very prevalent in the North.

The child should be exposed to the right and positive words and words from birth. His memory sticks and glues to anything he hears over time.

Little do we know that the little thing in our hand could in no time grow bigger to spew what has over the months or years been stored in his memory to our chagrin.

We must at all times jettison vulgarity, abusive and strong language in the hearing of the child. They could grow up to become double-edged swords in the use of these uncharitable languages.

What comes out of a man’s mouth goes a long way in not only conveying strong messages about his thoughts but also character content. We should not be oblivious of this.

The child should not be introduced to street life at a tender age. We must not allow the children to become a means of income earning for the upkeep of the family but recipients of well mapped out care, kindness and love.

The idea of sending them out to the streets and motor parks to hawk items such as plantain, banana, groundnut and pure water is a very short and easy way of massively mortgaging their future and should therefore be discouraged.

It does not only draw them closer to the doorsteps of social vices such as drug, fraud, pick-pocketing, obscenity, unwanted pregnancy, prostitution, cultism, arm robbery, political thuggery and arm banditry but endangers their lives. They could be knocked down by a speeding vehicle in the process of street trading.

A situation where the child is subjected to all forms of abuses (physical and emotional) should in the strongest of terms be condemned and abhorred.

The child should not under any circumstance be subjected to vociferous, vicious and killing attacks.

According to part II of the Child Right Act of 2003 subsection 11, every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be:
(a) Subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment including sexual abuse; or
(b) Subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or
(c) Subjected to attacks upon his honour or reputation; or
(d) Held in slavery or servitude, while in the care of a parent, legal guardian or school authority or any other person or authority having the care of the child.

Moving ahead, subsection 12 stipulates thus:
(1) Every child is entitled to rest and leisure and to engage in play, sports and recreational activities appropriate to this age.
(2) Every child is entitled to participate fully in the cultural and artistic activities of the Nigerian, African and world communities.
(3) Every government, person, institution, service, agency, organization and body responsible for the care and welfare of a child shall, at all times, ensure adequate opportunities for the child in the enjoyment of the rights provided for the child in subsections (1) and (2) of this section.

Sadly enough, the child’s rights highlighted above have been grossly abused at various levels including government institutions yet hardly are people held responsible for such deliberate flouting of the constitutional provisions.

Daily, we are bewildered with the crass abuse of one right of the child or the other ranging from torture, maltreatment, servitude, forceful marriage, child labour and sexual offences. Not long ago, a housewife in Gaduwa estate Abuja was arrested for pouring hot water on her house help which handed the victim a second degree injury for her failure to wake up early enough and face her house chore which according to the accused the victim’s uncle who brought her to Abuja is being paid for.

This is a classical case of man’s inhumanity to man. Many of similar cases go on almost on daily basis across the country under-reported or totally unreported, abandoning the victims to their painful fates.

Also, a man was recently arrested by the Gwarimpa division of the FCT Police command for allegedly torturing his teenage biological son to death. One could simply ask has the milk of human kindness in us gone this dry?

What possibly could make a man take away the life of his own son when he is neither paying for the sins of the whole world neither would he resurrect after three days as we see in the instance of Jesus Christ? Whatever the little boy’s offence could be at this point becomes highly immaterial and irrelevant.

A clear reminder that we do not have absolute right over our children but live under the umbrella of the supreme hand of the law.

Paedophilia, incest and all forms of sexual exploitation against the child has become a recurrent decimal in our society today. Its shocking value is indeed gradually fizzling away because it is now more like a banal.

We have heard how a 58 year old man routinely assaulted a five year old girl in Lagos and when asked, he shoved the blame off his shoulder and as usual landed it on the head of Satan whom he accused engineered him to what he did and his wife who left him several years ago for his indecent lifestyle.

We also hear how a 45 year old school proprietor in Mararaba Nasarawa state abused to his deep satisfaction a 4 year old pupil in his office whose only offence is that the parents enrolled in his school.

Why would a supposedly care giver make himself an instrument for the devil against the child? From East to West, North to South, it is the same gory tale of sheer wickedness and premeditated inhumanity against the child. Most shocking of all is when sexual criminalities and paedophilia are perpetrated under the veneer of religion just like we see in Ese Oruru’s and several other similar cases.

Even though international humanitarian and human rights law provide special protection to children, too many of them are caught up in armed conflict.

According to a United Nation’s study on children in war by Graca Machel, “The physical, sexual and emotional violence to which the children are exposed shatters their world. War undermines the very foundations of children’s lives, destroying their homes, splintering their communities and breaking down their trust in adults”.

Despite their innocence, they have been brutally and maliciously despatched to their early graves in the boko haram ravaged North East.

The ever fresh mass butchery of innocent school children in Buni Yadi government secondary school in Yobe state few years ago by the marauding haramites from the pit of hell highlights how unfair the society has been to the child.

It smacks of pure wickedness where our children become endangered species in the hands of those who should protect them.

We should not sit idly-by and watch our future being grudgingly cut in prime. We must all rise to the occasion of not just defending and speaking for the children, but must be seen in practical terms doing that.

All children are ours and we are all their parents. No father or mother is bestowed with the exclusive ownership of his or her child.

We must all therefore become active partners in progress in ensuring that they get nothing less than the best irrespective of their religious, ethnic, political or community affiliations. Their innocence and our culture of showing love as Africans should be their fall-back.

They should not be made victims of neo-ethnicity and fractured system.

The cliché that no-nigerian-child-should-be-seen-hawking-on-the-street-during-school-hours should be made a reality and implemented to the letter.

Using the children as begging machines which still thrives in so many parts of the country should be fought to a standstill.

It is a very serious impediment to the realization of full potentials of the Nigerian child.

They should not be laboured when they should be in the class room. No Nigerian child should be denied access to at least basic education on the basis of the minor financial weight their parents wield.

The basic education should be made freer and more compulsory. It should not be a fertile ground to politick using decorated words just to curry cheap political points while at the same time exploiting the parents. No nation plays politics with the education of her citizens and come out better.

Individuals who engage in blatant violation of the child’s rights in any form no matter how highly placed should be arrested, prosecuted and brought to book.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons should form a strong synergy with the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs Service and all other such agencies to protect our borders and make it extremely difficult if not impossible for some agents of darkness who masquerade as messiahs to have a lee way to traffic our innocent children out of the country for pecuniary and selfish purposes.

The Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Youths and Sports and other such agencies of the government entrusted with the core mandate of ensuring a healthy growth and development of our children and youths should intensify efforts in living up to their primary responsibilities to the citizenry without prejudice.

Children IDPs whose hope of continuing with their education is gradually dwindling because of the security challenges we are confronted with should not be forgotten.

Parents should summon a potent will power to train their children in the way they should grow. The carrot and stick approach should be adopted.

They should not turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of their children. They should not spare the rod as not to spoil the child.

They should ensure that their children maintain a healthy and decent relationship with their peers.

They should control what they (children) watch on satellite television channels, what they read, watch or listen to on the internet as not to expose them to pervasious images that have the tendency of corrupting their minds and psyche.

Religious organizations should spread messages that will instill a long lasting culture of love in the minds and hearts of our children and youths. Extremism and bigotry should be avoided at all cost. Undermining, castigating and vilifying other peoples’ faith and religious beliefs will only enthrone hatred and strife. Tolerance, unity and brotherliness should be the watch word.

Traditional bodies and institutions should teach the child how to value his culture and at the same time have respect for others’ cultural beliefs and norms. Since no culture is logically better and above the other, teaching them to look at the belief of other people despisefully will only be counterproductive and dangerous.

Adamawa, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Borno, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara that are yet to domesticate the Child’s Right Act should do so without further delay.

The government, using the machinery of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies should maintain a strict implementation of the Child Right Act and adherence, especially as it regards child labour, sexual abuse and torture.

A National Agency on Child’s Right protection should be established. It must be responsible for reporting all forms of inhuman practices against the right of children, counseling and educating people on child abuse and the laws against it. Such agency would also be responsible for implementing the various laws and conventions on child’s rights.

Specialized training and professional education should be organized for persons involved in the administration of juvenile justice. This is to achieve desirable level of efficacy and competence.

Government should rehabilitate juvenile institutions as well as establish new ones to provide discipline or oversight of children accused of crime or other such serious problems.

We can get the best out of our children and ensure a greater future for them in particular and the country generally if we collectively invest our energy, time and resources for the enhancement of their welfare today.

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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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