Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye; Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has affirmed his administration’s commitment to the protection of children. This is even as he said the number of children enjoying homegrown meal per day in schools have risen to 8.2 million spread across 24 states.
He charged families, security agencies, traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society organisations, rights activists and the society at large to rise up and take urgent and decisive actions to stem what he called the unacceptable rising cases of violence against children.
In his message to mark the Children’s Day, which has the theme: “Creating safe spaces for children: Our collective responsibility,” he reiterated that one of the cardinal objectives of this administration was the provision of quality education to the children as a fundamental foundation of economic and social development.
“Our children are our future and the initiatives that come from them give confidence that our country has a bright future.
“I am always inspired and encouraged when I remember encounters I had with three of our young ones. When I was on medical vacation in 2017, three-year-old Maya Jammal recorded a prayer for my recovery, which went viral online.
“Also, 10-year-old Aisha Aliyu Gebbi wrote a personal letter to me, describing herself as my ‘biggest fan.’
“Nicole Benson, then 12 years old, had contributed the sum of N5,700.85 to my campaign in 2015. The money was all saved up from her lunch and pocket allowance. There are millions of such children nationwide.
“I am very impressed by what our children have been able to do, and what the future holds for them. That is one reason why we are committed to the school feeding programme to prepare a future generation of physically and intellectually robust children. At the last count, over 8.2 million children in 24 states of the federation are being given free meals daily. This happens in 45,000 schools round the country.
“I, therefore, call on all stakeholders to support this programme to ensure that all the 36 states of the federation and FCT are covered. This will promote substantially higher enrolment levels in our schools.
“Since its inception in May 2015, this administration has also focused attention on addressing issues of child protection, participation and survival. In 2015, the campaign to end violence against children was launched, which was commemorated in 2016. In November 2016, the campaign to end child marriage was also launched to ensure that as many children as possible are able to fully enjoy their childhood and be protected from all the challenges associated with this phenomenon. These campaigns have been reinforced with sensitisation campaigns in some states of the federation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has assured that Nigeria has the capacity to overcome the many challenges facing it.
According to him, human development index, education, healthcare and the welfare of citizens are some of the ways the country can overcome her challenges.
Osinbajo, who spoke to State House Correspondents after a special service to mark the Children’s Day at the Aso Villa chapel, Abuja, said: “The truth of the matter is that there are always challenges everywhere in every nation of the world. But I am convinced that we have the capacity to surmount all of the challenges as there are.”
He described the Nigerian children as special “because the future of our nation belongs to them and they have all that it takes to give the country a great future.
Osinbajo noted that by watching the drama and listening to the music rendered by the children at the service, it was obvious they were a bunch of talented, innovative and energetic.
“And so, I am completely convinced that our nation’s future is extremely bright because of all of the children that God has given us, the talent he has given us.”
Osinbajo observed that the day was also a moment “to reflect on the responsibility both government and adults have to ensure that “we give to these children the very best that we can. And that is why the commitment of our government is to that bottom of the pyramid: those who cannot afford education and cannot afford healthcare.
In a related develpment, Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara said there must be deliberate efforts to end child labour and every form of exploitation of children nationwide.
Dogara, in a statement to commemorate the 2018 Children’s Day and signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Hassan Turaki, expressed concern that many children in the country were out of school and subjected to various forms of exploitations.
He noted that there was need for the federal and state governments to join hands to address the challenge of out-of-school children.
Besides, Dogara stated that schools in the country must be made safe while indigent parents should be able to send their children to school at no extra cost.
“Ours is a country with one of the highest rates of children out of school in the world and the Federal Government
in conjunction with states must design and implement policies which will change this.
“Our children are our future, and the glory of this nation depends on each and every one of them being equipped with the necessary skills to contribute their quota to national development.
“Only when all our children have access to education can we speak of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty,” he said. The Speaker added that the House of Representatives is deeply concerned about the challenges confronting children in the country, noting that the House is taking serious steps to address the problems.
“Child labour, molestation and other acts of exploitation should have no place in our society and we all must work towards creating an enabling environment which allows all our children thrive,” he said.