By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
To say that children are passing through turbulent time in our society is to say the least. That they are being targeted by all forms of man inhumanity to fellow human being is to put it mildly. That the wind of evil against them has given them a new picture of the world, to distrusts many people and see them as evil, is to state the obvious.
The issue also became a serious concern to many stakeholders during the Children’s Day celebration last week in the country.
Specifically, while giving a vivid picture about this trend which has become common place in Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said “Violence against children is pervasive. Violations occur in the home, school, work place and online. The perpetrators often include the very people children are expected to trust: parents, caregivers and other family members, friends, teachers and intimate partners.
“Violence against children marks them – often for life. Sometimes the marks are visible: bruises and broken bones. But the harm that violence causes children also effects their mental and physical health and their ability to function in the world.”
It further expressed delight that Nigeria has demonstrated clear commitment to end violence against children – and that the theme for the Children’s Day in Nigeria this year ‘Creating safe spaces for children: our collective responsibility’, provides an excellent opportunity to speak up on behalf of all the vulnerable children in the country.
“Nigeria was the first country in the West African sub-region and the 9th country in the world to conduct the Violence Against Children survey in 2014.
“The survey provided the first nationally representative data on the prevalence of sexual, physical, and emotional violence among children in Nigeria.
“The findings, released at the end of 2015, highlighted that millions of Nigerian children are suffering violence every year and most are suffering in silence. 6 out of 10 children will suffer some form of emotional, physical or sexual violence before they reach the age of 18. Many of them encounter violence over and over. Yet, less than 5% of the children that seek help, receive support. This was clear call for the government at all levels to act to end violence against children.
On what it is doing to help stamp out the menace, UNICEF said it remains firmly committed to end violence against children in Nigeria. “We are determined to mobilize political will and resources to tackle all forms of violence against children wherever it happens.
“We are currently re-analysing the 2014 VACS findings to gain an even deeper understanding of the drivers of violence against children.
“We are also supporting our Government partners to launch our National Plan of Action to End VAC by 2030, alongside with a national Social Norms Change Strategy.
We are also supporting the Government to track and monitor reported cases.”
On his part, a security expert, Prof. Bala Yakubu, said a lot has been lost in the foundation of bringing up the Nigerian child.
According to him, “Before the war, there never existed a difference between the Igbo Yoruba or the Hausa child in the barracks, schools and playgrounds. We celebrated Sallah and Christmas together, we had mixed playgroups where no parents withdrew his child because of insecurity. We went to schools outside the barracks in small groups without fear, until the problem preceding the civil war came followed by the stealing of little children for rituals in Ibadan. It was popularly called ‘Gbomo, gbomo.’
“The killings of the Igbo race brought the first separations amongst children. The Igbo children were separated from the rest of us; then came the problem of unregulated religious teachings which had great influence on children especially these days across the two main religions. Prior to this time, Government showed interest in what children were taught in and out of schools i.e Islamiyah or Sunday school. But the present jet age imported other versions of religious teachings from all over the world, and religious teachers, sprang up from all directions with different views of the true teachings which corrupt the child’s mind which is vulnerable to consume.
“A lot of parents also never bother to check on the religious teachings whether they are in line with what the parents know or not. Thus, a child will be brain washed with some fantastic promises of riches in adulthood or Paradise in death. It then makes it difficult to reorientate the child into good discipline, thus exposing the child to security risk or the child becomes the security threat himself i.e. Child suicide bomber.
“We have seen child soldiers produced this way, so also Boko Haram. Islamic and Christian teachings by the various teachers must be closely monitored. Unfortunately millions of Nigerian children have been indoctrinated with the Boko Haram version of teachings. This must be seriously addressed as some of them will also become teachers after gaining freedom.”
On ways to tackle violence against children, the Prof, who is also a bomb expert and the founder of Deminers Concept, called on government to revise teaching curriculum from primary schools to the university. “She must bring back History so that children are reminded of the effect of negative actions of the past and their consequences. Recent civil disturbances in some parts of the country has caused segregated living i.e Muslim in an area and Christian in the other. This causes more insecurity as growing Nigerian child will always believe that the other religion is not a friend. Kaduna is an example.
Maintaining database is another way of curbing insecurity only if it uwill be without bias.
“Putting the children under lock and key or under army or police protection will over stretch the security services. There are millions of schools from Creche to pry to sec and the university. The security deployment for each school will differ from each other. Thus on a rough calculation of 1×10 soldiers or policemen to a school . we shall need over 2million security personnel. I would suggest the Israeli type of school’s security whereby schools are kept behind high walls with difficult to penetrate gates for entry and exits. Entry and exits could be handled by proper screening procedure to ensure safety of pupils or students including staff. All staff must undergo serious biometric before they are employed and would remain under watch. The schools security system should be linked to first and second line security forces to enable them counter any threat in the event it happens. Plain clothes security will be deployed to man schools security systems.”
Meanwhile, in his Children’s Day message, President Muhammadu Buhari urged security agencies to redouble their efforts in protecting children from danger and violence in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Child Rights Acts, 2003.
“Today affords me another opportunity to re-affirm our Administration’s commitment to the protection of children, a day to reflect on our roles and responsibilities as Parents and Leaders towards our children, and also assessing how far we have fared in this regard.
He said his administration’s cardinal objectives is the provision of quality education to children as a fundamental foundation of economic and social development.
“In this regard, I am pleased to inform you that this Administration has recorded measurable success in the home grown school feeding programme as it has continued to expand.
“Our children are our future, and the initiatives that come from them give confidence that our country has a bright future.
“In our efforts to protect our children from abuse, exploitation and trafficking as well as provide safe, non-violent inclusive and effective learning environment in our schools, this Administration has directed the management of all Federal Government Colleges and advised all state owned schools across the Country to provide adequate measures of safety and security of their students. I again call on all schools management committees at all levels of public and private institutions to take adequate security measures and put in place mechanisms for safety of children.”