I returned from my trip late at night on Friday. I have been out of town for a whole week attending a program in Ghana. It was a conference for Non-Governmental Organizations working on health education in Africa, sponsored by AU.
As my custom is, I went to each of my neigbour to give to their children what I brought from Ghana. I knocked Mama Kenwa’s door, whose room is the nearest to mine. She opened the doors slightly and as she saw me, she broke down in tears, ‘akowe, ah akowe, we lost Kenwa. He was electrocuted, while playing in Mama Shagba’s room. He picked naked electric wire.’ I broke down into tears too; Kenwa was six years old, bright, brilliant and sharp.
I went back to my room dejected. Two days after, it dawned on me we needed to do something to prevent future occurrence, so I came up with what I call Seventeen Commandments of Protecting Children in the Home and distributed among my neigbours. I also gave some copies to the landlord to distribute at the residents association meeting. Here are the commandments:
- Do not use harmful objects to beat a child.
- Do not leave a child alone unattended
- Do not deny a child essential food
- Do not lock a child in or out of the house
- Do not lock your child in your car
- When you are on the road with your child, walk against the traffic, either carry your child or hold him on your side and not on the side of the traffic; if you have to cross the road, please carry him
- When you child is with you in the car, particularly at a very tender age, use the child lock of the car, put the baby/child in the car seat and for older children, make sure they use seat belt at the back
- Do not curse or shout frequently on a child
- Do not tease or belittle a child
- Do not leave young children with unknown adults
- Do not deny a child the opportunity to attend school
- Do not encourage a child to hawk during school hours or after school hours where his/her safety cannot be guaranteed.
- Do not give your children out for work
- Avoid actions and behaviour that encourages Sexual abuse
- Keep harmful objects (including life electric wire) drugs and others out of the reach of the children.
- Do not expose your children to violent films and video games as it had been found that children learn violence from these videos.
- Protection children from pets or animals. Teach them the meaning of signs like ‘Beware of Dog’ and the likes.
I ended my commandment with this inscription: ‘Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement. We must protect our children from all forms of harm by becoming a social police, who employs skill and vigilance to ensure the best interest of the child.’
I was happy when our residents association invited me again to come to speak on these my commandment. At the end of my meeting with the residents, they came together to form a Community Child Protection Support Group to discuss and offer assistance on child protection issue.
I later heard that the group paid an advocacy visit to the King of our town to shed light on the issues of child protection in the community. The king, I was told was very impressed, as he agreed that the community theater group will stage a drama in the nearest future to educate the members of the community on child protection issues.
This is a story of victory for the children of our community. We must make it a point of duty to safe our children from becoming victims of domestic accidents. Many years ago story broke that the son of a popular musician in Nigeria had a domestic accident, which badly affected his private part and had to be flown abroad. The popular musician was in the public domain for some months soliciting for financial support to facilitate the treatment of the child abroad.
Without prejudice, I must say that except in few cases, domestic accidents involving children are avoidable. I recently read the sad story of a woman who left her 1 year old boy with nobody and went to work. She had left the child in a compound, where one of the fellow tenants, who fries and hawks fish. The fellow tenants had left hot oil in the big frying pan, with which he just fried the fish he was going to hawk for the day. Nobody knew when the child crawled to hot oil and fell into it. By the time his cry attracted the people around, her stomach was already fried. He was rushed to the hospital. The poor child died two days after.
I also heard the story of two children in Ondo State. The elder brother had taken the hunter’s gun loaded and left carelessly at home by the father and shot to death the younger sister. The children were imitating what they saw in the Yoruba home video where one person shoots the other and the gun does not penetrate him or her.
Please note that it is not by agenda to sound gloomy. My agenda is to create awareness. I hope I have been able to do that.
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