Gabriel Dike, Fred Ezeh and Bianca Iboma
As Nigerian children join their colleagues in different countries to mark this year’s Children’s Day today, they are not carried away with fanfare and celebration. Rather, they see it as an opportunity to remind government that the future belongs to them and, therefore, the future must be secured.
Across the country, children are remembering promises made by government during political campaigns and anniversaries. And they are pleading that the promises should be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari’s message to Nigerian kids reechoes today. In his message to mark the 2018 celebration, Buhari affirmed his administration’s commitment to the protection of children and decried the rising spate of violence against children.
Issuing from Buhari’s promises, many of the children who spoke to our correspondents made passionate appeals to government to show interest in things affecting their well-being and take appropriate actions to actualise them.
Oladele Makinde, 12 years old JSS 2 pupil of Glory Secondary School, Ikotun, Lagos.
He said every child looks up to the occasion because of the fanfare associated with it and the public holiday that keeps most children at home.
He asked politicians to keep faith with the campaign promises they made as they relate to children’s issues, adding: “My teacher said they made plenty promises during the last elections and I hope they will implement them.”
Daniel Okoro, 14-year-old JSS 3 student of Greater Tomorrow Academy, Oshodi, Lagos.
This student wants government to fix the bad road to his school, provide books for every Nigerian child, ensure regularly power supply, a good job for his dad, protect children from kidnappers, stop children from hawking on the street and pay teachers well.
he said, “Help us tell government to do what they promised last year and recently. During campaigns for the elections, they assured our parents that they would provide many things and we pray that the government will fulfill them. You know they say promise is a debt; we expect them to keep the promises they made.”
Daniella Obi, 10-year-old student of Rising Sun High, Agodo Egbe, Lagos.
She appealed to government to improve the standard of education by building more schools, make education free and end corruption in the education system.
The student also demanded the creation of jobs for youths, which would lead to reduction in crime and other social vices.
She equally tasked government to repair bad roads that lead to death of many Nigerians, construct new ones in areas where there are no roads, build pedestrian bridges and also improve the health facilities to check the high rate on infant mortality.
Onu Praise, nine-year-old pupil of Rising Sun Children’s School, Agodo-Egbe, Lagos.
This pupil charged the federal and state governments to provide educational facilities in schools to boost learning nationwide, and award scholarship to brilliant but indigent/orphan pupils.
He further asked for adequate security to protect children from kidnappers and rapists.
“I will like government to fulfill electoral promises as soon as it assumes office,” Onu said.
Ikechukwu Marvel, JSS 2 student of Rising Sun High School, Egbe, Lagos.
He asked government to provide benefit fund of N5,000 monthly for children to support their education, support private schools with science facilities, enhance basic skills and career abilities of children and tackle insecurity in schools.
Miracle Nkpo, 10 years old pupil of Rock Foundation Montessori Schools, Olodi Apapa, Lagos.
She congratulated the elected executives and lawmakers, while rolling out her demands, which include steady power supply that will attract foreign investors to the country and also encourage young entrepreneurs to start their own business.
Nkpo appealed to government to allocate huge funds to the education sector, where the future of the children lies and this would discourage parents from sending their children abroad.
She equally called for adequate funding of the health sector to improve medical facilities in teaching hospitals, to reduce the death rate and medical tourism abroad, adding: “If all these sectors can be taken care of, we shall have a better Nigeria.”
Fesisayo Huesu, Basic 5 pupil of Rising Sun Children’s School, Egbe, Lagos.
Saying, “Government must fulfill election promises,” Huesu, who is 10 years old, asked government to provide conducive environment for children to learn in school, pay special attention to physically-challenged children in the country and build special schools for them as well as better healthcare facilities for children.
Judith Nwabuaso, nine-year-old pupil of Rock Foundation Montessori School, Lagos.
This pupil wants government to provide adequate security in the country, stop kidnapping and killins, as foreigners will see Nigeria as an insecure place to invest or do business.
She also demanded the removal of trailers and trucks on the expressways, especially Apapa, noting: “Most of our pupils plying these Apapa roads to and from school, they suffer in traffic caused by these trucks and they are at risk.”
Nwabuaso, Grade 5 pupil, appealed to government to make jobs available for Nigerians in order to reduce crime rate and other social vices, stressing: “Our graduates and unemployed people in our society have taken to crime and other social vices to survive or fend for themselves.”
Ark Chubamachie, nine-year-old Basic 4 pupil of St. Saviour Nursery/Primary School, Egan, Igando, Lagos State.
He wants elected officials to keep their campaign promises, stating: “If they promise children things, they should fulfill it. Simple.
“We need government to beef up security in our public and private schools so that our minds can be at rest while we are learning. A lot of kidnap cases and ritual killings have been recorded in Lagos and other parts of the country. The Nigerian child wants to study in a safe environment.”
Joy Mouka, a 10-year-old Basic 4 pupil of Noravel Private School, Iba, Lagos State.
Joy asked President Buhari and other government officials to ensure peace in the country, while advising government to increase the number of teachers in public schools.
According to her, children in public schools need to learn in conducive environment, while lamenting that school roofs were worn out and classrooms over-crowded.
Deborah Emodi, seven years old Basic 2 pupil of Queency Private School Oka-Afo, Lagos.
She asked government to fix roads, produce sound education and health care services, recreational facilities for kids at school to enable them to have fun and keep fit.
Ikechi Anthony, nine-year-old pupil of Rising Sun Children’s School, Egbe, Lagos.
Ikechi appealed to federal and state governments to reduce the number of children hawking on the streets by establishing more public schools and engage qualified teachers who will help parents who cannot afford school fees in private schools.
On health, he advocated the establishment of more hospitals, especially in the rural areas, saying: “Government should provide primary health centres to take care of children when they are ill. This will greatly reduce infant mortality, while pregnant women will be able to access these hospitals.”
The pupil also asked for free education and award of scholarships, while tasking elected government officials to fulfill their campaign promises.
Ezuma Success, Primary 6 pupil of Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Compassion Home Nursery and Primary School, Umuahia, Abia State.
She appealed to government to increase investment in education, particularly the basic education.
Specifically, she asked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State to fulfill the promises his made when he was seeking re-election, particularly in the area of education.
She asked for the governor a fully equipped laboratory in her school as well as borehole water system for students.
Paul Emmanuel, pupil of Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Compassion Home Nursery and Primary School, Umuahia, Abia State.
He agreed that Abia State government had made great investment in education, saying there was need for more funds allocated to the sector.
He, however, registered his anger with Governor Ikpeazu, who he claimed promised them a Coaster bus when he visited the school but has not fulfilled the promise.
Paul also wants the governor to provide a library for them, to enable students have good books to study with. He also asked for a good playground and teaching aids to make teaching and learning easy.
Grace Akins of Government Secondary School, Karu, Abuja.
She condemned the unending rift between teachers and government over salaries and entitlements, saying unending industrial disharmony has been unhelpful to the already distorted education system in Nigeria.
In addition, she complained about poor quality of facilities in her school, alleging that some of their teachers were not up-to-date with new trends in education system.
She said: “Many of them have refused to embrace 21st century technology and its benefits. They have refused to understand that the knowledge of 20 or 30 years ago would have limited impact in today’s world.”
She appealed to government to double its previous investment in education, so that schoolchildren could get education that would make them relevant in global discussions.
School owners, parents speak:
The proprietor of Focus International School, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Chief Lanre Ogunjobi, described Children’s Day as a special occasion, while appealing to government to tackle the issue of 10.5 million out-of-school children nationwide as well as the provision of facilities to boost basic education.
On the Buhari administration’s free meal programme for schoolchildren, Ogunjobi wondered why the federal government was delaying in implementing the programme across the country, adding: “The free meal programme is slow, some states have not been touched, only about 22 states have benefited so far.”
A parent, Mrs. Titilayo Adebambo, who has children in a public school, pleaded with the Lagos State government to provide adequate security in all public schools to tackle the incessant kidnap and rape of school pupils.
She observed that some schools do not have fences, gates or security personnel.
Adebambo also urged the state government to improve the welfare of teachers, noting that: “Public schools still have the best teachers. They need to be encouraged to continue to put in their best. In the area of learning facilities, government should equip the laboratories to boost the teaching of science subjects and enhance the welfare of teachers.”