Like archetypical paradoxes, well-being of the child and deprivation represents different sides of the same coin. Well-being of the child can be defined as the realization of children’s rights and the fulfillment of the opportunities of every child to be all he or she can be. The overall well-being of children and young people is understood in terms of the averages of social conditions encountered by children and young people. Deprivation is the negation or non existence of these qualities.
A child in Nigeria according to the Nigerian labour act is a person under the age of 14 years. The African chatter on the rights and well fare of the child defines a child as every human being below the age of 18. The United Nations convention on the rights of the child defines a child as persons below the age of 18. While the canon law of the Catholic Church prior to 1917 holds that a child is a person below the age of 14 for males and below the age of 12 for females.
Issues in child well-being are complex and manifested in various forms. A number of which includes child trafficking, child abuse, child molestation, early child marriage, child bride, children and crime, child soldering and youth militancy, girl child trafficking, children as victims of HIV/ADS pandemic, child nutrition, children abandoned and orphans.
Across the globe, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18; 61 million girls are denied the rights to attend primary and lower secondary schools; each year, 16 million adolescent girls (15-19) give birth. Of which the younger girls have the risk of pregnancy complications; 50 million children are refugees and displaced people due to conflict; the birth of 230 million people s not registered; 1 n 4 countries lack legislations protecting women and girls from domestic violence.
These precarious trend is evident n Nigeria as 75% of Nigerian girls get married before the age of 12; about 98% of adolescent in north east Nigeria are forced into marriage before their 18th birthday; 10,000 children in Nigeria are trafficked, 70% of which are female; 2.5 million Nigerian children are malnourished; a majority of primary schools in Nigeria especially rural areas lack water, electricity and toilet facilities. There is on average 1 toilet per 600 pupils in the primary school system; it is estimated that 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school.
Marriage of girl child minor to older men as bride is prevalent in Nigeria. Recently, Ese Oruru, a 14-year-old girl was kidnapped and impregnated by Kano-state born Yunussa Dahiru. Northern Nigeria accounts for the highest incidence of VVF and associated cases as well as emotional distress and the inability to achieve the highest potentials of the girl-child.
Lagos recorded a total of 4,035 cases ranging from child rape, abuse, sexual assault, child defilement, and child custody wars in 2015. Child abuse is also prevalent in other states of Nigeria. Most recently, a nine-year-old boy, Korede Taiwo was discovered in chains in Ogun state. Korede has been in chains for 9 months it was found out.
While there are precarious situations across the country, there are however a few positive happenstances. The state of Osun recently kick started its Osun Elementary School Feeding Program which has benefited over 254,000 pupils spread over 3000 communities. O-meals aim to reverse the very low academic performance of pupils noting that good nutrition is necessary for the development of cognitive skills. The scheme has attracted international endorsement.
The Abiye program of the Ondo state government has helped to ensure that infants and maternal health mortality is brought down drastically. The number of deliveries recorded in the state is about 40,000 in four years, 80% of which are primped. The hospitals in less than 3 years has attended to over 60,000 patients, conducted no few than 15,000 deliveries with over 2,300 through caesarian section.
The Nigerian government should sit up and come up with a sound transformative agenda that will care for these deprived members of her society. A special tribunal ought to be set up to try child related offences and crime. Child related crimes and offences should be duly reported and appropriate punishment meted out. The populace should be educated on the dangers of child bride and the dangers of VVF. The social security systems should be restructured, restrengthend or overhauled and child right laws enforced strictly. The O-meals and the Abiye program should be readapted to areas where they are nonexistent. Protective and preventive mechanisms should be adopted to ensure that children get a better deal. The federal government ought to pay special attention to the well-being of the Nigerian child for children are if anything, the future generation whose posterity we are obliged to preserve.
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