By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Nigerian children have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to protect their rights and implement more child-friendly and child-focused COVID-19 response initiative.
The children in a letter written to mark the Day of the African Child, expressed worry that the government did not prioritize issues of children to protect them against covid-19 pandemic and other abuses.
The day is celebrated to remember hundreds of school-children who lost their lives during a peaceful protest for their right to education in Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976.
The children in a letter received by our reporter, said, children are at risk of infectious diseases and exposed to unintended results of the response to the pandemic that brought poor education outcome.
“While we appreciate some innovations to bridge the learning gaps through radio and TV programs and in some cases, online learning platforms, not all children have access to these facilities.
“We worry that many of us living in rural areas and those living in low-income households will be left behind. We also fear that once the schools reopen, there will be a lot of pressure on both students and teachers to catch up with lost time to complete the 2020/21 school curriculum.”
The children also expressed worry over possibility that many of them will not go back to school (especially the girls) as their families may decide to marry them off as a way of dealing with the uncertainties.
“Therefore, our right to accessible, undisrupted, safe, free and quality education is at risk.
“We are under attack by the increasing number of sexual abuse, molestation and violence, including rape, early child and forced marriage, child labor and trafficking, making us feel more unsafe, unprotected and experiencing different forms of trauma. Our right to safety and protection are therefore at higher risk.”
Meanwhile, children in Nigeria fear that the current threats on their safety and protection will reduce the gains achieved towards the implementation and domestication of the Child Rights Act over the years.
The children appealed for the establishment of at least one specialized children’s court and dedicated law enforcement units within the Nigerian Police, Security and Defense forces, agencies and services in each of the six geo-political zones of the country to fast-track the full implementation of the Child Rights Act 2003.
“We would like to sincerely request the government to design a child-led, comprehensive, multi-sectoral, national development agenda and plan for children.
“The government, at all levels, should prioritize the implementation and domestication of the Child Rights Act 2003. This will provide children in Nigeria with the necessary legal policy framework for seeking justice when our rights are denied or abused.
“We, the children, represent the future, and we deserve an opportunity to realize and release our full potentials.
“Your Excellency, the Children of Nigeria, will continue to look up to you and your administration for our growth and the development of our dear country at large.
We thank you in advance for your kind consideration and response to our letter.
Your faithful children.”