HAPPY Children’s Day! The balloons dance in the air as the Chibok Girls cry in despair.
If there was a day that the parents of the nearly 300 girls who were abducted from the secondary school in Borno State could feel more pain, it would be on Children’s day. Little wonder, many organisations had called upon Nigerians to boycott the celebrations. Happy Children’s day! But do the children of Nigeria really have any reason to celebrate? Vanguard Learning investigates.
Schools, battle ground for terrorism:
Even in times of war, soldiers are sometimes lenient toward women and young children. But in these times, terrorist target their activities at children. In 2013 alone, about 100 children were killed. Scores have also been killed this year, and the untold horrors of the Chibok girls will ring true in the hearts of many for years to come.
No reward in education
Of Nigeria’s 76 million children, 10.5 million are not in school. Despite a significant increase in net enrollment rates in recent years, 42 per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.
Increased enrollment rates have also created challenges in ensuring quality education and satisfactory learning achievement as resources are spread more thinly across a growing number of students. It is not rare to see cases of 100 pupils per teacher or students sitting under trees outside the school building due to lack of classrooms.
To address this, the Federal Government, in 2004, approved the implementation of the compulsory and free Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act aimed at fighting illiteracy and extending basic education opportunities to all children in the country.
According to UNICEF, every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five- year-olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
Although analyses of recent trends show that the country is making progress in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, the pace still remains too slow to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by a third by 2015.
Preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 per cent of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of morbidity and mortality of a large proportion of children under-five in Nigeria. It accounts for more than 50 per cent of deaths of children in this age bracket.
The deaths of newborn babies in Nigeria represent a quarter of the total number of deaths of children under-five. The majority of these occur within the first week of life, mainly due to complications during pregnancy and delivery, reflecting the intimate link between newborn survival and the quality of maternal care. Main causes of neonatal deaths are birth asphyxia, severe infection including tetanus and premature birth.
Similarly, a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is 1 in 13.
A future of unemployment
Even after jumping the hurdles of primary and secondary education in the light of the challenges aforementioned, the Nigerian child will have to pass through the eye of a needle to get admission into a tertiary institution. If strikes allow, he might graduate in time, but will be faced with disillusionment when the time comes to enter the labour market.
According to The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 54 per cent of Nigerian youths were unemployed in 2012. There is no indication that the situation is any better.
From terrorism, to abuse, from neglect to poverty, from a dwindling education system made worse by corruption, the Nigerian child faces myriad challenges.
From May 27 in one year, to another May 27 in the next year, these challenges seem to go from bad to worse. Those who see no reason to celebrate children’s day, sincerely understand the solemnity of the Nigerian situation, but those who do, salute the bravery with which these young ones face these challenges, beaming with hope in a way that only children can, making us believe against all odds that there is a future for Nigeria. (Vanguard)
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