Huriwa Logo

Huriwa Logo

Friday, 13 April 2012


Two recent events of significance paint graphic picture of the critical situation that contemporary Nigerian children face on daily basis. The first of the two events is catastrophic and has already occurred while the second could be categorized as an attempt by the political authority to try to find workable solution to the disturbing statistical evidence that over 20 million Nigerian children are out of school due largely to poverty afflicting their parents.

Firstly, in the first week of April 2012, a bus conveying to school the pupils of the Divine Wisdom Nursery and primary school in Ibadan, Oyo State, caught fire while in motion even as over six children were killed in the inferno and fifteen others who were trapped in the fire were successfully rescued but with varying degrees of injuries. From medical report cited by reporters of various national dailies, eight of the pupils were diagnosed to have suffered shock as a result of the fire incident speculated to have been triggered by electrical fault in the ill-fated school bus.

This Ibadan bus fire incident took a dramatic stage when 13 of the pupils who survived the accident were rushed to the university of Ibadan college hospital because of the severity of the burns and they were said to have been placed on oxygen but other vital medical equipment that are essentially needed to treat these children were totally absent in this Federal government owned medical facilities.

Underscoring the historic absurdity witnessed in this derelict and dysfunctional Federal Government run hospital of tertiary level supposedly,  the Oyo State governor Abiola Ajimobi had to urgently release N6 million to the hospital officials to rush to Lagos to procure the needed facilities in an attempt to save the lives of the injured children.

Media report has it that soon after the children were rushed to the badly equipped University college Hospital in Ibadan run by the federal government of Nigeria, the state governor who rushed to the hospital and noticed the deplorable state of facilities, ordered his security officials to escort the hospital staff with the sum of N6 million to procure the most essential medical equipment from Lagos for the treatment of these children.

On arrival at the university college Hospital, the Oyo state Chief executive was briefed by the chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, Dr. Biodun Otegbayo who confirmed the critical medical situation of the children, but was quick to confirm that the hospital lacks some of the basic tools needed to attend to this type of medical emergency. Aside ordering the equipment, the Oyo state Governor said the medical bills of these admitted injured children for treatment would be settled by the state government.

The unfortunate hospital scenario reported above is replicated in virtually all parts of the country whereby the primary Health care system seems to have collapsed thereby resulting in the unfortunate and untimely deaths of scores of children from even seemingly treatable diseases like malaria and Pneumonia.

But should government officials at local, state and Federal government levels wait for such medical emergencies to happen before they embark on media and politically-motivated charitable assistance as was seen in the Ibadan school bus fire incident?

The second event which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 10th April 2012 in Sokoto state is the official commissioning by President Goodluck Jonathan of the Model 'Almajiri' school which is proposed to remove hundreds of thousands of homeless children from the streets of Northern Nigeria and offer them formal, organized educational life line and to try to transform them into law abiding, patriotic Nigerians when they become adults.

It is yet to be seen how this new approach by government could go in removing children from the streets of Northern Nigeria and even Abuja. These vulnerable children are left to wander around by their parents to fend for themselves.

A greater percentage of persons spoken to about this proposed model 'Almajiri' school system say it may not work except the necessary structures are put in place and workable measures put in place to check corruption and economic crime by the managers of the new school system because a bad precedent was set when the Nomadic Educational System was set up by the Federal government few years back but this effort did not make much impacts because of ineptitude, corruption and crass opportunism which characterized the hierarchy of this ill-fated school system that was originally designed to educate the Fulani herdsmen and their family members to transform them into educated members of the Nigerian society.

I am of the considered opinion that because the Nomadic Educational infrastructure were left to rot due to official incompetence and corruption, the targeted beneficiaries have lost the opportunity of the life time and this may account for the frequent clashes between members of farming communities across the country and these Fulani Herdsmen who are often accused of invading farm lands and destroying farm produce.

I am of the opinion that if Nomadic Educational system was effectively implemented, then better and more improved relationship would have been worked out and clashes that have lately become bloody and violent would have been avoided. Both the officials of Federal Ministries of Education and Agriculture ought to have worked in synergy to educate the Fulani Herdsmen on the best methods of grazing and indeed if the Federal government had clearly established grazing reserves across the country.

In view of the increasing existential situation that the Nigerian children face, I had to task Miss. Oladapo Osareme Victoria, a political science undergraduate of one of the public schools to conduct a research on the state of the Nigerian child and her findings were as pathetic as they are horrific making it imperative that one is left with no option but to propose to government and other private sector stakeholders to take urgent steps to establish viable and functional educational and health facilities to care for our Nigerian children and to transform them into better citizens for the greater glory of our fatherland.

In carrying out this intellectual assignment, the 21 year old Miss Oladapo Osareme Victoria who is an active affiliate of my registered civil society organization, also reflected on the symbolism of the International Children and Youth Day usually marked on May 27th every year.                              

Highlights of her findings reveal that the international children’s and Youth Day is no longer a new event as far as Nigeria is concerned. This event is celebrated all over the world on every 27th day of May. Nigeria therefore joins the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to honour children, recognize their need and address their challenges.

This singular event, according to her, is meant to unite children all over the nation and put smiles in their faces through organized social events. The pertinent question to ask is how many of these children are privileged to actively involved or participated in the festivities? Too many of them suffer from life vagaries and deprivations such as neglect, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, squalor and sexual molestation and other imposed child labor-related hardships. This is the reason why I think that the contemporary Nigerian Children should be paid 'HARD SHIP ALLOWANCE' rather than pay legislators at the National Assembly who are usually isolated in their air conditioned offices and heavily air conditioned chauffeur driven cars what is dubiously called hardship allowance even when they [legislators] know nothing about hardship.

The Nigeria child in the considered opinion of Miss. Oladapo, is bedeviled by too many problems and what ordinarily should have become a celebration has therefore become a sober reflection on the plight of the Nigerian child, millions of who are not presently in school even though they are of school age, making the level of illiteracy in the country to be all time high.

Nigerian government on paper is said to have tried all effort and means to redress this trend but it appears every attempt at solving this problem is always hitting the rock because in the first instance, officials of government lack the necessary commitment and political will to do the needful so as to transform the present precarious situation of the Nigerian Child and lift them to their better selves.

Miss. Oladapo thinks that the latest in this move by government to redress the educational imbalance of the contemporary Nigerian Children, is the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme lunched in 1999 by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo to capture the children of both primary and junior secondary. Again, the implementation of this obviously noble idea has been weighed down heavily by official corruption, incompetence, opportunism, mediocrity and outright heist of financial resources meant for the program thereby scuttling the dream and lofty goals for its conception.

Recalling with nostalgia that the goal of this system is primarily well targeted and laudable in that it is set to make education free and compulsory at these basic levels, Miss Oladapo also recalled that also embedded in this laudable programme is the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Program (HGSFHP) Act 2004, aimed at reducing dropouts and improving nutritional status of children.

Regrettably, in her assessment, so far the above goals and good intention of the Nigeria government have failed to achieve its purpose due to what she simply calls “the Nigerian factor”.

She rightly stated that it seems the Nigerian government and the general public have become collaborative in their insensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian child. The programme aimed at integrating basic education into the Qu’ranic school system seems not workable thereby hordes of children move from one street to the other in some parts of the country begging for alms. Over the years such children have become easy prey for politicians who use them to ferment civil unrest in order to achieve their selfish political interest. Citing findings from other researchers which she shares, She found out to her consternation most local government areas in Nigeria today have no schools or viable programs for the blind or the deaf and dumb.

Her words: “The Nigeria government in collaboration with some foreign NGOs may be making loud noise in their fight at eradicating childhood diseases but the fact remains that infant mortality rate from lack of access to primary healthcare remains high in a country that aspires to be a truly global player by the year 2020”.

But she quickly stated that government alone should not be blamed for the poor state of the Nigerian child because parents ought to and should be active in reducing the plights of the Nigerian child. “The average Nigerian parents of today unfortunately have put the search for wealth above their children’s needs and welfare thus making them susceptible to various forms of social abuse. The high rate of broken homes in some parts of the country has had its negative impacts on the moral upbringing of children. Poor parental examples are another factor that is fast leading children astray”, she averred.

The former United States President Mr. Bill Clinton wrote in his book “Giving: How each of us can change the World,” that those who are financially well endowed owe humanity a duty to lift the millions of disadvantaged children into their better selves.

President Clinton said thus; “The fact that one in four people who die this year will succumb to AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or infections related to dirty water casts a pall over all our children’s future”.

 *          Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and writes              from           


No comments:

Post a Comment