Orphanages: Why Do They Exist?  

In the Third World, an orphanage is seen more as a place where children-at-risk are taken to and raised until they become adults. From my working experience I have found that there are 5 categories of children in an orphanage:
1. A Child, whose both parents are traceable but are dead and there is no extended family members, who is ready or available to take responsibility for the upbringing of the child;

2. A child, whose parents and extended family cannot be traced, the parents or extended family members having deliberately abandoned the child;

3. A child who has lost one of the parents and he/she is taken to an orphanage either as a result of lack of resources or time to take care of the child;

4. A child rescued from physically or mentally challenged parent(s) or where only one of the parents is physically or mentally challenged and the other and extended family members could is not traceable or are not ready or able to take responsibility for the upbringing of the child;

5. An unaccompanied child, whose parents cannot be traced as a result of natural disaster or social upheaval, who are also referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (children)

It is important to note that none of these categories of children deserve to be raised in an orphanage. Permit me to sound it loud and clear that since we have recognized that an orphanage is not a place to raise children, then the purpose and roles of orphanages should be redefined to be nothing but a reception centre for children in the categories identified above for the purpose of being reunited with their parents, adopted or fostered.

It must therefore become part of the terms of reference of the management of orphanages to sensitize and encourage the public on adoption and foster parenting.  Children should only grow up in an orphanage if there are no opportunities of being reunited to their parents, adoption or foster parenting after the orphanage has made concerted and critical efforts to give out the child for adoption and settle the child with a family under a foster parenting program.

The truth is that many operators of orphanages are not enthusiastic to release the children under their care even where there is the alternative of the children being raised by a family either under adoption or foster parenting program.  I guess most operators, who unnecessarily hold on to children or frustrate the process of release of children to where they could get family care are ‘genuinely’ afraid of being out of ‘business.’ Honestly, such operators are also out of tune with global thinking against institutionalisation of children upbringing. In developed climes, governments are empowering families, encouraging fostering and adoption as the phase out orphanages. Whether we accept it or not in the Third World, the wind is blowing across the globe and very soon, it shall be here. It is better to prepare for change than to be swept by same.

One of the problems for a child, whose parents cannot be traced and left to grow up in an orphanage is that he/she does is not able to exercise his/her right to identity; that is the right to a name. If a child grows up in an orphanage what name do you call him/her? If you settle the issue of first name, what about surname? Does the child bear the name of the orphanage as surname or is the child adopted by the operators of the orphanage? If the operators must adopt the child, would he/she go through the normal process of adoption as laid down by the law? If the operators adopt the child and give him/her their names as surnames of the child, would he/she take the child out of the orphanage to his/her own home or would they remain in the orphanage? If they remain in the orphanage and they bear the names of the operators, could the ‘adopted’ children be said to have been positioned to reap the benefits of ‘adoption’ beyond being given the names of the operators? If the operators claim to adopt a child and leave the child to continue to live the orphanage would that not amount to an exercise of convenience, which does not take into consideration the best interest of the child? If the operators, after an adoption exercise decide to take the adopted children to their homes, how many can they possibility look after?

What is the future of the child, who grows up in an orphanage when he turns 18 and become a young adult? Do we set him/her up to stand on his own? The questions are endless.

It is important to note that orphanages have devised many means to solve the right to identity problem, but I must say that none of the means completely satisfies the provisions of the law or promote the best interest of the child.

This is food for thought my dear friends and readers and I charge you to join the debate. Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE…Do have an INSPIRED week.

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Me..Comedy and All That…

‘You have a career in comedy,’    
Many say as they attempt to hold their ribs from falling apart when I speak or facilitate…
I am jolly funny fellow, who do not set out to be one…
One thing I know is that I’ve embraced joy as my nature…
I’ve chosen not to take myself too seriously… 
Rather I take myself joyously…       
I’ve chosen to make light of things but make serious of life as the situations demand…
Joy is a medicine, I manufacture in unlimited quantities and each time I make contacts,I distribute in same measures to the overflow…        
Freely I have received the joy of theLORD and freely I give…
Comedy is my career already…
Joy is my star product…   
Yet I’m as sober as ever on my knees on this LORD’S Day.
Do have an INSPIRED week.

Millennium Development Goals and Child Protection(2)

Here is the conclusion of the discussion, I began last week. I await your comments on this critical issue as it affects our dear children.

Published on its website (www.unicef.org), UNICEF on its Child Protection Information Sheet, titled, Child Protection, the MDGs and the Millennium declaration, submits as follows: ‘Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: Children who live in extreme poverty are often those  who experience violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination. They easily become marginalized and are frequently denied such essential services as health care and education. In a self-perpetuating cycle, marginalization of children who are victims of violence and abuse decreases their likelihood of escaping poverty in the future. Child labour– both a cause and consequence of poverty – damages a child’s health, threatens education and leads to further exploitation and abuse.’

UNICEF concludes, ‘poverty is a root cause for trafficking.  Without documents to prove birth registration, children and families often cannot access health, education and other social services, and States cannot plan poverty alleviation and social service programmes without accurate estimates of annual births. Poverty and exclusion can contribute to child abandonment and the separation of children from their families, as children are sent to work on the streets or parents are forced to migrate and leave their children behind. Children might end up in foster or institutional care arrangements which can lead to marginalization and decrease their chances of breaking the cycle of poverty. Armed conflict depletes physical, economic and human resources and leads to displacement of populations.’

I think it is important at this point to consider how the world has performed in achieving the Goal 1 of the MDGs as it relates to child protection in Africa, which is my core concern.  The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 stated among other things under Goal 1 as follows: ‘Despite this impressive achievement at the global level, 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost half the population live on less than $1.25 a day. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region that saw the number of people living in extreme poverty rise steadily, from 290 million in 1990 to 414 million in 2010, accounting for more than a third of people worldwide who are destitute. The report further reveals, ‘the World Bank projects that, by 2015, about 970 million people will still be living on less than $1.25 a  day in countries classified as low- or middle-income in  1990. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia will each be home to about 40 per cent of the developing world population living in extreme poverty.’

In particular reference to Nigeria, the UNDP reports concerning Goal 1 on its website (www.ng.undp.org) states, ‘recent economic growth, particularly in agriculture, has markedly reduced the proportion of underweight children, from 35.7 per cent in 1990 to 23.1 per cent in 2008. However, growth has not generated enough jobs and its effect on poverty is not yet clear (the most recent data is from 2004). The available data and the current policy environment suggest that the target will be difficult to meet.’

Both the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 and the UNDP report give us the reason for the state of affairs with achieving Goal 1 of the MDGs. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 submits, ‘around the world, abject poverty is found in areas where poor health and lack of education deprive people of productive employment; environmental resources have been depleted or spoiled; and corruption, conflict and bad governance waste public resources and discourage private investment.’

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 challenges the international community thus, ‘the international community now needs to take the next steps to continue the fight against poverty at all these various levels.’ The UNDP reports give us a clue to how the international community can answer the call made by the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013, ‘growth needs to be more equitable and broad-based. Developing agriculture and creating jobs will require the public sector to create an enabling environment for business, including building critical infrastructure, making regulatory services transparent and providing sustainable access to enterprise finance. Social protection and poverty eradication programmes need to be scaled-up and better coordinated.’

As it relates to the MDGs, particularly the Goal 1, which I focused on here, you will agree with me that there is still a lot to be done in terms of eradicating poverty and hunger in Africa. The farther the journey is, the dimmer is it for our children and their protection. Therefore it is time to exert pressure on our leaders to address the issues identified in the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 as the leading hindrances to achieving Goal 1 of the MDGs.  It is also our responsibility as African to decide to contribute our quota to achieving the Goal 1 and other MDGs in the best interest of the African child.

I charge you to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think…Think the FUTURE…Do have an INSPIRED week.  

I CHALLENGE YOU

This is a CHALLENGE on the LORD’S Day for those who care to hope on His bountiful GRACE, who perfected all that concerns me before the world began when He sacrificed His Son on the cross, that I may also become His Son and one with His Son…
I  CHALLENGE you to DARE to CHANGE your world…
Yourself…
Your family…
Your world…
For this cause He made me…
For this cause He redeemed me…
Equipped me with Human Ingenuity
(limitless in my capacity to create and limitless in my options)…
To duplicate His values on on earth and populate this realm with His Glory, His first intention as it is done in Heaven…
This is the CHANGE I CHALLENGE today to DARE today…
To align the world, beginning with yours with His WILL…
His LOVE…       
I CHALLENG YOU today as I remain sober on my knees on this LORD’S Day.
Do have an INSPIRED week.
Taiwo Akinlami(www.taiwoakinlami.com)

The September 22 Resumption Order: Addressing the Real Issues

I am joining this debate after much dilly-dallying, trying to find the rhythm of my conscience on this matter. As I get older in the onerous responsibility of child protection through the instrumentality of Social Empowerment Advocacy, I have come to know and accept as an undeniable reality that it is always gives priceless advantage to be quick to hear and be very slow to speak.  

You see, matters of this nature are not always as simple as those who argue for or against try to make it look. The issues of resumption of primary and secondary school pupils cannot be a simple debate of for or against. The simple reason is that there is a multi-level interplay of interests regarding this matter. The truth of the matter is that every interest has a point. Every interest has an argument. None of the interest can be accused of being selfish. Most importantly every interest is speaking from divergent social status. Forget, those who have assume the poor strategy of finger points, which I consider an immature way of conducting our social affairs.

The federal government has declared Monday, September 22, 2014 as the resumption date for schools from long vacation. We all know that resumption was postponed as a result of Ebola crisis. Schools were earlier to resume on October 13, 2014 according to the directive of the Federal Government before the date was reviewed ‘as a result of a careful reassessment of the situation. Stakeholders, parents, teachers, school owners, public health experts, medical practitioners, child protection experts and other are today standing on the either side of the divide.
I think there are two sides here: one is side says do not reopen and gave plethora of reasons, one of which is that children are not as careful as adults and they may not be able to adhere to instructions on preventive measures. Those on the side of this divide have also argued that children should not be allowed to return to until the country can be said to be Ebola free. This group has further pointed accusing fingers to private school operators as the unseen hand behind the movement for the September 22, 2014 resumption. They have also argued that governments at the Federal and State levels are not ready in terms of preventive measures taken by the governments. According to a recent newspaper report, ‘analysts and some concerned stakeholders are worried over the poor state of sanitation in many public schools, with rickety water infrastructure, un-hygienic toilets and the widespread practice of open defecation that create high risks conditions for the spread of not only Ebola but other diseases like cholera and diarrhea.’   

On the other side of the divide are those who argue that school must resume as directed by the Federal Government. The protagonist of that group is the Federal Government, whose most vociferous face is the Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu. The professor minister has argued that those who are calling for indefinite shut down of the schools plagued by paranoia as they have no facts to substantiate their position. He has argued that the spread of Ebola virus has been successfully contained in all the states of the federation and there is no cause for alarm.

Having time to study the cases of both sides of the divide, permit me to express my intervention in three points: I think the first issue here is that the war over resumption and the blanket declaration of a resumption date by the Federal Government again exposes that nature of the so-called federalism we claim to run in Nigeria. While I agree that Ebola Virus may qualify for a national emergency and must draw the attention and directives of the Federal Government, I believe the issue of resumption should be treated on state to state basis. I believe what the Federal Government should do is to create a template of criteria, which each state should follow and allow each federating unit, known as state to take a final decision on same with due consultation with the Federal Government. It is important to note that education is under the concurrent list of legislation under our constitution. It is also known that most state primary and secondary schools are funded by the state government. I am at a loss, why the Federal Government should take a final decision, which is binding on the federating units, which primary and secondary education it does not fund. Please note that I am aware of the N1.9 Billion Naira, approved for the fighting of Ebola Virus. The truth is that we are not told how the fund is being disbursed and what percentage is allocated to the educational sector both at the state and federal levels. On a permanent level, I am aware of the policy position promoted by the Universal Basic Education Act. It is important to note that the federal government has not on the basis of the UBE Act taking over the responsibility of funding education at basic level.

The second issue is a common error, I have seen in matters of this nature in this part of the world. Children have not been involved in the debate. Adults, who think they know better, have been speaking for children as usual. They have neglected their right to participation, which says children must be allowed and encouraged to participate in matters, which concerns them through their varied ways of communication. I see that nobody has involved children in the matter, seeking your opinion. I think children’s opinion on this issue matters. Children are the ones, who are being asked to return to school, their thought must be called for as a matter of urgency and necessity. I agree that parents, teacher, public health practitioners and the general public must be engaged, but I wonder why we always find it difficult to involve children in the matter, knowing that they are the primary focus of the issue at hand. I believe it is a major fallacy on the side of the campaigners and governments when children are not given the opportunity to project their voice on this matter.

Permit me to round up this discussion with the third and last issue. One major fear I have for our society is that we have perfected the laughable art of putting the cart before the house in our social debates. Permit me to state that, I do not think the debate is whether schools should resume or not no matter how long children have stayed home. Please note that in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where Ebola is spreading like wild fire, the debate cannot be how long children have been at home. The argument is not also that children are vulnerable. I think the meat and heat of the debate should focus on how prepared are governments at all levels to ensure that children are protected, knowing that the number one responsibility of primary and secondary caregivers in the life of the child is to protect the child. It has been established that the spread of Ebola virus is preventable with necessary measures in hygiene. Government at this state must answer this question in dual capacity. First, in their capacity as education providers, who run public schools and secondly as regulatory bodies, who regulate private schools. How prepared governments are in the foregoing capacity must be considered independently. The first issue is what are the regulatory policies the governments have formulated and handed down to the operators of public and private schools? If such regulatory policies are put in place, would they have same impact across board, particularly among the private schools sector, considering the fact private schools all over the nation are not at the same level of infrastructure development? It is a known fact that private schools in the urban and sophisticated areas do not have same infrastructural status like those in the rural and densely populated areas, particularly in a state like Lagos. It is also a known fact that some of the private schools in Lagos State are not within the radar of the ministry of education. That is the schools are unregistered and unknown to government. How then does the government regulate schools that are not in its database? If the private schools in urban and sophisticated areas are ready to receive to receive students, having put in place precautionary measures, are the ones in local and densely populated area ready? If there is no uniformity in preparedness between public schools, private schools located in the local and densely populated areas and the ones in urban and sophisticated areas, are we going to have two resumption dates?

Permit me to conclude here that the debate is yet to begin if we do not bring these issues to the table and find credible answers to them. It is also important to note that our answers must be in the best interest of the child. The truth is that even if the schools resume on Monday, September 22, 2014, it does not change the issues. May God help us.

Millennium Development Goals and Child Protection (1)

In the year 2000 the United Nations, following its Millennium Summit established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. It is noteworthy that all 189 United Nations member states and a minimum of 23 international organizations made commitment to see to the attainment of the MDGs. The MDGs comprises of eight International Development Goals, which are slated to be achieved by the year 2015.
I. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
II. To achieve universal primary education
III. To promote gender equality and empowering women
IV. To reduce child mortality rates
V. To improve maternal health
VI. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
VII. To ensure environmental sustainability
VIII. To develop a global partnership for development

It is important to submit that all the MDGs are linked to children. This is clear by their captions and also by the nature of their beneficiaries. It is a fact that of the 48 indicators of progress toward the Goals, UNICEF is chiefly responsible for progress in 13.

While different mechanisms have been designed to monitor the progress of the MGDs, I will like to focus on Goal 1: To Eradicate Extreme Poverty. Two distinct reasoning informed by decision to focus my attention on Goal 1: the first is the fact that poverty is at the root of all the other problems that the MDGs seek to address and find lasting solutions to. I am not surprised that it is the first goal. It is important also to note that it is clear in the minds of the patrons of the MDGs that achieving Goal 1 is an inevitable pathway to achieving the remaining 7. I guess that is why the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 is titled, ‘We Can End Poverty 2015 Millennium Development Goals

The second is the fact that it is my long-held view that until we address the issue of poverty with a commitment to finding lasting solutions to same, we are not serious about child protection, which is my core interest. I am of the candid opinion that poverty automatically breeds abuses.

Two years ago I was privileged to attend a press conference organized by the government of the state where I reside in Nigeria. The goal of the press conference was to announce the measure being taken by the state government to declare total war on abuses of children in the state. The press laudable press conference was addressed by a very senior functionary of the government. After the top government functionary had addressed the press on the measures being taken by the state government to curb abuses of children, she welcomed comments. I stood up to comment that the efforts of the state government at declaring war at child abuse are laudable. I further stated that except we address the problem of poverty in the state, it may be impossible to achieve too much in the area of prevention of abuse. I said once the existence of parents is an abuse, they automatically abuse their children.

In view of the foregoing permit me to take a look Goal 1 on the MDGs as it affects Child Protection in the African continent. It is important to note that it is the conclusion in my immediate article on Modern Day Slavery that poverty is mainly at the root of exploitation of children, particularly in the Third World.

I will bring this discussion to an end when we meet again. I charge you to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think…Think the FUTURE…Do have an INSPIRED week.

BIOLOGICAL CLOCK VS DESTINY CLOCK

Biological Clock is for the natural realm…
It is common…
It is weak…
It is temporal…
It is predictable…
It is easily counted by the blinks of man’s eyes…
Yet by this weak element many define thier essence…Their live and the fortunes and fears alike…
This I say as I remain sober on my knees today that if it is by only biological clock we determine our hope in life, then we are the most miserable of all of God’s creatures… 
Few years ago, I received His Grace to delinked myself from the time zone of this clock…
I registered the entirety of my being on another time zone…
It is called Destiny Clock…
It is personal…
It is counted by the Creator of all things, the Master Time Keeper, whose eyes are on the sparrow…
He keeps all appointments He gives…
Life is an appointment He gave us all…
He keeps no one waiting…
He has no waiting room…
In Him there is neither delay nor denial…
He comes at Destiny Time…
The Time of Life…
That He will open the eyes of our understanding and we may see His plan for us scheduled for His Appointed/Destiny Time and rest upon His Promise, I pray for us today.
Do have an INSPIRED week.
Taiwo Akinlami Sober on his Knees on the LORD’S Day.