June 16 is the day of the African Child and I, The Preacher think it is very significant as it helps us to call attention to the so many seemingly insurmountable flights of the precious African Children.
The African Union through the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child declared the theme of the 2017 Day of the African Child as ‘Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunities for Children in Africa.’
When we consider where the African child is today, one is tempted to submit that the 2030 vision of achieving Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunities for the African child may be considered ambitious or even audacious.
The following are the key statistics of the state of the African Child as supplied by UNICEF:
1. In Africa, mortality rates among children under five decreased by 54 per cent between 1990 and 2015, but still half of the world’s 5.9 million under-five deaths occur in Africa.
2. Pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea account for 36% of all under-five deaths in Africa.
3. Africa has the highest rate of stunting among under-fives; it is also the region with slowest progress in reducing stunting since 1990.
4. In 2014, there were an estimated 2.3 million children under 15 years living with HIV in Africa.
5. Over half of the world’s out-of-school children (33 million) live in Africa.
6. The population in Africa with access to an improved drinking source more than doubled from 1990 to 2015.
7. There has been major progress in the last decade in the use of insecticide-treated nets among children.
The question we must ask is if we are committed to the foregoing goals upon which we mark the Day of the African Child today, what practical steps are we going to take to achieve this laudable but ambitious goals in view of the present state of the precious African Child?
While I leave the foregoing question in all of our collective conscience, I will dwell briefly on the state of the Nigerian child and make what I consider to be fundamental recommendations.
Again, attempting to dwell on the state of the Nigerian Child may be an overtly ambitious task considering the enormity of the issues and the sparing nature of the available time and space.
In view of the foregoing, permit me to focus on the safety of our precious Nigerian Child within the school system, particularly the Boarding School System.
Security has become a major issue as at today, particularly with incessant kidnapping of children within the school system. The last one is the kidnapping of six (6) students of Model College, Igbo Nla, Epe, Lagos State since May 25, 2017.
The pertinent questions we must be concerned today as we mark the day of the African Child, which one of the focus is to achieve protection for the precious African Child are as follows:
1. How safe and secured are children today in our schools, day and boarding?
2. What safety, security and protection measures are professionally put in place to ensure the well-being of our precious children in our school?
3. Considering the way daredevil kidnappers force their ways into schools to abduct our innocent and precious children could there be any preventable measures professionally put in place to both prevent and respond adequately to these unprecedented aggression against the serenity of our institution of learning and the innocence of our precious children?
4. If we cannot vouch for a professionally compliant measure to prevent and respond to aggression of our institutions of learning, particularly our Boarding School system, should we declare that the government and her agencies have failed in their responsibilities to secure lives and property of the Nigerian Citizens, particularly our most precious children?
5. If the government and her many agencies cannot show us an effective and tested blue print for securing our precious children in schools, can we conclude that the educational sector in Nigeria is under siege and therefore in a state of emergency when it particularly comes to safety and security of our precious children within the school system?
6. If by the foregoing facts we agree that the educational sector is in a state of emergency, what drastic measures are we all taking to address the state of emergency in the best interest of the precious Nigerian Child or do we fold our arms, resign to fate and wait until there is another attack culminating in kidnapping of our precious children?
7. If by the foregoing facts we agree that the educational sector is in a state of emergency, is it not time to reconsider the whole concept of boarding schools in Nigeria, whether they should continue to exist at all or exist in their present form, particularly as it relates with their location, noting that location may set them up as soft targets to attackers?
8. If by the foregoing facts, we are in agreement that the educational sector is in a state of emergency should our concern only be in the area of promulgation of laws prescribing the strictest punishment for offenders, considering the fact that criminal punishment, which is the fulcrum upon which the entire gamut of criminal justice system is build, draws its strength from deterrence as the lead goal of punishment, noting that criminal punishment has been discovered to be the weakest form of deterrence?
Providing answers to the foregoing mind boggling questions must be reserved for a stakeholder forum of all interested parties within and outside the educational sector in Lagos State, drawing participation from both the private and public sectors. Interested parties here refer to all who are duty bound to see to the protection of our precious children within the school system.
The mandate of the School Safety and Security Stakeholders’ Forum (SSSF) will be to hinge a long-drawn, robust and informed conversation, with a view to professionally and experientially providing best-interest-of-the-child compliant answers to the outlined questions and many more that may arise in the course of her deliberations.
It will be recalled that I, The Preacher made a call for the foregoing first in 2015 or 2016 at the wake of attacks on our school in Lagos State. I return today to make this call again and hoping this time that the call will receive the attention it deserves from all the quarters concerned.
As we celebrate the day of the African Child today, I encourage us to speak for the safety, security and protection of the precious IN-SCHOOL Nigerian Children today.
Think the FAMILY…Thin the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE™