Justice for the African Child

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Oluwaseun Boye

According to Wikipedia,a child is referred to as “a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. Generally, children have fewer rights and less responsibilities than adults. They are classified as unable to take good decisions, but, legally must be under the care of their parents or wards or another responsible caregiver”.

To this end, Children’s rights are a subset of human rights with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care accorded to minors.The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines a child as “any human being below the age of eighteen (18) years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

Children’s rights includes their rights to association, with both parents, human identity and as well, the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child’s civil rights, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, colour, ethnicity, or other characteristics.

Interpretations of children’s rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes “abuse” is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing. There are no definitions of other terms used to describe young people such as “adolescents”, “teenagers”, or “youths” in international law, but the children’s rights movement is considered distinct from the youths rights movement. The field of children’s rights spans the fields of law, politics, religion, and morality.

All over Africa, the day of the “African Child” is commemorated every June 16 and it aims at raising awareness on the situation of children in Africa and on the need to continue to improve on their education. It was first established by the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) in 1991 to honour those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day.

In Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976, about ten thousand black school children marched in a column, more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their rights to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young students were shot, the most famous of which being Hector Pieterson. More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured.

In the light of this, on June 16 of every year, Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations ( NGOs), International Organisations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realisation of the rights of children Africa.

“Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa” has been declared as the theme for year 2020. So, stakeholders, at all levels, are expected to brainstorm on how to ensure that the rights of the “African Child” is guaranteed.

Going by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) convention which contains 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and set out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to, it becomes imperative that adults, governments and relevant stakeholders must work together to make sure all children enjoy all their rights.

In Ogun State, the Prince Dapo Abiodun led- administration has continued to take giant strides at ensuring that the children enjoy the best in all areas of life through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Ministry of Youths and Sports, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Special Duties as well as through the office of Her Excellency, the first lady, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun. They have continued to play supportive roles at ensuring that issues relating to the welfare and development of children are always in the front burner in the State.

The Governor, in his address during the virtual children’s day celebration, admonished parents and guardians to be good examples to their children.

According to him “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people”.

He stated that since children are the future leaders, the responsibility lies more on parents, guardians, caregivers and government to protect their future. It is a fact that children learn faster by what they see. Therefore, as elders, there is need to abide by, and, do what is morally right for the young ones to emulate, and be shining examples at all times. As a matter of fact, it will also engender good impression and mould them into better future citizens on whom the future of the nation is entrusted.

In his words, “As an Administration, we have continued to demonstrate our commitment to the welfare of our children. For example, we have put in place several policies and programmes to develop our children intellectually, morally and physically in order to become complete citizens”.

The renovation of, at least one public schools in each of the 236 wards to improve the learning environment, the establishment of Ogun Tech Hub in Abeokuta to building ICT skills and make it globally ICT competitive, the launching of the Ogun Job Portal, to facilitate employment for the teeming youth.

Part of Government’s efforts at improving the wellbeing of the children includes the introduction of online learning platform Ogun DIGIClass in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic to ensure continuous learning, empowerment of the youths through sports, creative arts, cultural activities, tourism and entertainment towards preparing them for the great task of nation building,Regular immunisation for children to safeguard them against diseases; and Renovation of Primary Healthcare Centres across the State to improve access to healthcare among others.

There is no gain saying the fact that Governor Dapo Abiodun has formulated policies and implemented programmes directly at ensuring the development of the girl-child, particularly by organising sensitization programmes against gender-based violence in which the girl-child is often the victim.

No doubt, Ogun State is leaving no stone unturned at safeguarding
the rights of the child through its various initiatives.

There is a clarion call to parents, guardians, government at all levels, educationist and other stakeholders to rise up to the various challenges confronting the children such as
Child trafficking which exists in most African Countries as well as the issue of rape which is now fast becoming the order of the day as COVID-19 is on the rampage.

Other vices such as child molestation, street hawking, indecent dressing should all be nipped at the bud before they get out of hands.

According to Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa, he said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” So, as we celebrate the day of the African Child, all hands must be on deck across the nations in Africa to rise to the situation of children on the need for continuing improvement in education.

Oluwaseun Boye is an Information Officer with the Ogun State Ministry of Information and Strategy, writes via oluwaseunboye@gmail.com

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