Do children have rights?

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Funny question right? Of course children have rights! Nigerian children have rights.

Just as every human being has rights so does the child.

But I ask this question with a heavy heart. Why?

Well, the truth is no one really takes time out to consider this seriously. We may sometimes look at this from the point of view of ‘Is it that important?’ or  ‘What rights do we the  adults have at the end of the day, that you are bringing up children’s rights!’

You are right, but we have to start somewhere. At least if we get this right, the future of our nation will be bright.

We do not want the labours of our hero’s past to be in vain. At least that is what we say every time we sing the national anthem.

The Convention on Rights of the Child, which is the United Nations treaty of 1989 which list the rights of children all over the world. I believe it was passed into law by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2003. To date though we have just about 20 of our states that have enacted this law and passed it. It is not law in a state until the states themselves adapt it and enable it in their region!

There are many issues at stake here:

  • Children are being beaten silly, and for what reason? There is no one holding the adults involved to account
  • Children ate being sexually abused, in some cases child trafficking is the end result.
  • There are children living on our streets. They are not going to school.
  • Some are being drawn into drugs and crime life even before they reach their teenage years

And the list goes on.

I was also looking for laws that protected the child from abuse in our nation! A lot of us are of the opinion that flogging our children like animals is alright, as it is the best way to stop them from becoming disobedient and erring children. Discipline is good and important, but please let us not equate this with what sometimes goes on behind closed doors and the classroom. Discipline is needed but child abuse is wrong. I am appalled that we do not have laws that are implemented and enforced when it involves the physical abuse of our children.

I was also looking at the cases of children with disability and how they can be more included in the education system and society. I wanted to look for laws that helped to make this a priority in the land. I know they must be there, somewhere, but as parents, educators and stakeholders in the area of childcare and education, how on earth can we function correctly if we are unable to pinpoint to basic guiding principles in our law that guide our work?

I call for change.

Something must be done. Is there a guiding framework from the Federal Government? If  there is please make it more accessible, and if not we need one.

Teachers must have a good grounding on what is legally right and what is wrong. What are the legal rights of a teacher and of the children they are working with. Not what we think, but what does the law say… Surely it does say something.

My  personal guidelines are the following:

I believe every child has a right to life. They have a right for their basic needs to be met, food, shelter, human relationships. They must be given a safe haven and have a sense of belonging.

They have a right to be nurtured and cared for, free from abuse, be it physical, mental and emotional abuse. (Unfortunately the canning and flogging of children is not considered as physical abuse by some of us instead we see it as discipline… we will return to this issue  later)

Children have a right to be respected and treated the way we as adults would like to be treated, with regard to our rights as humans.

What are your guidelines?

Please if you are in a position of trust as a parent or care of a child as an educator/care giver, think before you act. These children have rights too.

Let’s respect the rights of the child.



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