DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD: Nigerian children demand rights to quality education

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About 2000 young Nigerians across 10 States of the federation has presented petitions to their governors, parliamentarians and policymakers in a mass effort to draw attention to the need to act on commitments to increasing access to safe, quality education for all children, especially girls.

The youths are hoping to call government’s attention to the over 10.5 million children who are unable to access safe and quality education.

The petition presentation is in commemoration of the Day of the African Child, established by the United Nations to honour hundreds of students killed in Soweto, South Africa in 1976, during a protest to demand their rights to quality education.

In Nigeria, the campaign for access to quality education will hold the newly-elected government officials at all levels accountable for their campaign promises to provide equitable access to free, safe and quality education for every child, especially the girl child, in Nigeria.

The mass action is expected to take place in the10 States that account for about Eight million out of school children in Nigeria and a low enrolment average of only 57 per cent.

The States include Bauchi, Niger, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba and the FCT.

The children also want action to end the crisis in the north-east, which has left schools destroyed, teachers unavailable, and parents terrified to send their children to school due to insecurity – especially for girl children, who have been the victim of kidnapping while at school

The 2019 Day of the African Child is focused on creating awareness on the plight of children during emergencies, with the global theme ‘‘Child rights in all situations, including during humanitarian crises’’

According to UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Kawkins “Schools should be a safe place for children – one in which they can get a quality education that will put them on the path to a secure future,”

“Sadly, the demand for quality education by children in Soweto, South Africa in 1976, is still valid today, in too many countries around the world. The youth actions we are seeing today across several states is a wakeup call for leaders to act on their commitments to provide quality education for all children, in all situations.”

The engagement seeks to secure commitments from national and state governments to prioritize children’s rights to education in their governance agenda, including through budgeting, in their states and at the national level.

“This engagement creates an opportunity for Nigerian youth to advocate to policy and decision makers and urge them to commit resources to education, without which the substantial number of out-of-school children in Nigeria will not be reduced,” said Peter Hawkins.

The action is calling for improved school infrastructure, a massive enrolment campaign to bring all children to school, and targeted investments to ensure an uninterrupted 12 years of schooling for girls.

In addition, it hopes to extract a commitment for a 10% increase in budgetary allocation and release of funds for education, with 50 percent of the total budget to basic education, recruitment, deployment and provision of incentives for 1000 female teachers per year and recruitment and deployment of 1000 qualified teachers per year, especially to rural areas, where they are most needed.

The action comes as the world celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention is the most widely-ratified human rights treaty in history, and stipulates that every child has the right to education. It has helped to transform children’s lives; inspiring legislative changes to protect children and enabling them to participate actively in their societies.

Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.

As part of the commemoration, UNICEF has released a “Passport to Your Rights” – a copy of the CRC in child-friendly language, in pocket format. UNICEF aims that every child in Nigeria has a copy by 2030 – the deadline for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The CRC ‘passport’ is also available in Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin languages, helping to ensure access by millions of Nigerians.

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