Children form an important part of our population. In recent times, the rate of child rights violation and violence against children have increased as children are put under degrading treatment and poor conditions of livelihood . Around the world, one out of five children lives in extreme poverty, living on less than US$1.90 a day.
In the early twentieth century, it was common for children to work alongside adults in unsanitary and unsafe conditions where there was no standard placed on how children should be treated. Growing recognition of the injustices of their situation, propelled by greater understanding of the developmental needs of children, led to a movement to better protection of children.
In that regards, many Conventions and Laws where brought about to curtail the injustices done to children and the poor and degrading standard of living. The most primary of such laws is the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and subsequently the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to which Nigeria is a signatory to the treaty. The primary law governing Child rights in Nigeria Is the Nigerian Child Rights Act of 2003.
The need to protect children have advanced over the years but gaps remain in meeting those needs, as children have not ceased to be object in the hands of manipulators, terrorists and abusers.
Children and Child’s Right
The Nigerian Child Rights Act 2003 defines a child as “a person under the age of eighteen years” The Convention on the Rights of a Child defines Child Rights as “a subset of human rights with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors”. Some of these Child rights in Nigeria includes: Right to survival and development, Right to private and family life, Right to dignity of the child, Right of a child to free, compulsory and universal primary education among others. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) summarises this into: the rights to survive, grow, participate and fulfill their potential.
Form of Abuse and Degrading Treatment
Despite the laws made available to protect Child Right in Nigeria, many children today still suffer one form of violence, abuse and degrading treatment. This is due to the increase in children’s vulnerability considering, the fall in the general standard of living, illiteracy, neglect and poverty. The in ability of our laws to protect them and provide the basic necessities for their upbringing has placed a lot of burden on the child and the quest to meet these life necessities renders children more venerable to oppressors, violators and manipulators among others.
Children today lack good and standard environment to grow; Children who come from poverty stricken background often lack the means to enroll in school and acquire formal education due to poverty, inadequate guidance and illiteracy of parents. Acquiring adequate standard education is also a challenge for children living in extreme poverty and children who cannot afford private schools due to the fact that our Government schools are below standard because the lack basic necessities required for proper learning such as structures and other learning facilities like books, chairs and proper skilled staff.
Today, there is an increase in the rate of children on the street; there is an increase in the rate homeless children and children begging in traffics, streets, bridges and even houses for basic necessities for their survival. Despite the efforts to address the Almajiri issues in Nigeria, the Almajri’s still remain a challenge in our country as they are left as preys to manipulators, terrorists, diseases, traffickers and other abusers.
The conditions of many homes today has also posed a lot of challenges to the proper growth of children and the fulfillment of their purpose, Children suffer a lot of neglect from their parents or Guardian as majority of parents (male and female) have become more career than family driven..
Similarly Rising divorce cases has also affected the proper growth of children, leaving them unequal among their equals and living them blank of what an ideal family should be. The increase in domestic violence and lack of peace in families has also affected the proper growth of children as it makes them less hopeful about life, reduces their self esteem and productivity and would often affect what they grow up to become and the family they would have for their children; this possible probability of such re-occurrence must be considered. These can also lead to depression among which most times lead to suicide among children today
Safe Space for Children
There is a need to protect the children and create a safe space for our children: a safe environment and condition of living to ensure their productivity. Every child has the right to health, education and protection, and every society has a stake in expanding children’s opportunities in life.
Patterns get created very early in a child’s life. Just one negatively reactive response by a parent, environment and society to a child’s growth sets a pattern. Children are without doubt the product of the environment they grow up in, the experiences the have and what their parents, friends and family put out to them. Example: A child who has been abused in his early age is more likely to suffer low self esteem and most likely to have sexual disorder and turn out to be sex addict. Children who are brought up in crises prone areas and have been victims of such are more likely to be violent and children brought up in broken homes are more likely to live unhappy, sad life and have a possibility of having broken homes too. Most importantly, Children brought up in poor political systems and leadership are most likely to become bad leaders themselves. Creating safe space for children goes a long way in affecting the future of our children, homes, society, country and posterity at large as they are inevitably going to be leaders in their time.
The sustainability and continuous development of a country points down to the need to invest more in our children and create safe space where they can properly grow, flourish and be more productive.
Violence against children knows no boundaries of culture, class or education. It takes place against children in institutions, in schools, and at home. That is why we must seek to ensure a safe space for our children, we don’t need to wait on government to do this we can start by creating a safe family and environment for the children around us and report to appropriate such violations we may witness around us. Lastly States should put more effort towards domesticating the Nigerian Child Rights Act 2003 and ensure its adequate and effective implementation.
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