By Bayo Fasunwon
The Children’s Day was celebrated on the traditional May 27. While the gloom, mourning and economic disorders in the country sought to take the shine away from the day, one could not but appreciate the fact that through thick and thin, our children are soaring for the Stars. My heart went out to the brilliant but ragged children who, like Cinderella, could not make it to the Presidential Villa, due to their poverty. One thing however is sure, with determination, doggedness and hope, their ‘shoes’ will one day cause them to step and abide in the lofty castle of their destiny.
Children, so says the Bible, are the heritage of the Lord. God is so concerned with this group of people because He is aware of their value and great importance for the continuity and sustenance of the human race and nations. Therefore, children are gifts and rewards of God to every nation in the world. They are seeds that carry the gene of any nation’s glory, strength, wealth, and greatness. Science tells us that their mind is a ‘tabula rasa’, clean, void, and innocent. Whatever the children become is the function of what the adults have ‘inputted’ into their ‘internal hard disk’. Their activities and passiveness in adulthood is therefore the product of the algorithm developed by the adults who groomed them. Our children are therefore the scorecard of our curriculum.
In this wise therefore, one wonders the type of future we are projecting for the nation, given the manner and carelessness with which we build them up. The vocabularies of our children nowadays are filled with words that promote fear, slothfulness, and despair. In recent times, students and children have become targets of bloodletting kidnappers. One remembers with tears the remaining Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu, and several unreported others who have been kidnapped by insurgents, and government with all the legal rights to the use of coercion had not been able to rescue. Schools are shut down, and children are left to roam, groping in darkness for the light hidden behind the clouds. Silently we are building a crop of future adults who would not believe in the nation’s capability to secure them. We are building a future generation that would not feel any sense of commitment to a nation that cannot secure their lives and serenity. Gradually, faced with the realities of unemployed educated family members, and prosperity of the con men, the zeal for education wanes and desire for ill-gotten wealth soars.
Many State governments have made the children vulnerable to the lure of crime due to the maltreatment of workers – parents of our future. Sometimes, one wonders if, because their families feed fat on the labour of the downtrodden, Governors are unaware of the long-term effects of non-salary payments. Many children of unpaid salary earners have had to either change from good schools to slum schools; while some have resorted to been home schooled, many have had to drop out of school and labour to keep themselves and parents alive. The children have been made to experience avoidable pains and deprivations due to the inhuman treatment of their parents by a government, to which they daily pledge faithfulness and loyalty to. With biting inflation, incapacitated parents are forced to subject their children to hunger, malnourishment, and exposure to diseases and harrowing hazards on the streets. Government therefore is killing our children softly.
Every good nation would have deliberate programmes for the children. It is only during the Children’s Day that one hears of great plans that are never implemented. Many of our children laugh in anger, when they hear that Government had fed millions of them, on paper. Local governments do not have sporting programmes to develop the psychomotor of the children. Scholarships for indigent children have become history while we subject to moribund curriculum. The COVID 19 lockdown exposed Nigeria’s disdain for the development of the child. While many nations equipped children with the means to online learning and virtual training, ours were left to waste a year. On resumption, the students were worse off, and only teachers can relay their experiences. It is laughable that while leaving our children out of the technology based education system, we ‘equip’ them with reflective jackets to walk around during the daytime. The ministry of education had not revisited the various subject combinations that denies children dynamic career and admission opportunities in tertiary institutions and also seemed to care less if educational institutions are shut for several months due to avoidable industrial disputes.
Government owned institutions are being killed, giving rise to mushroom schools that offer education without learning. As the constitution review takes off, it is high time that children rights and welfare are inserted into the constitution. We need to make children the standpoint and focus of the nation’s development agenda. There is the need to secure them with all the arsenals at the nation’s disposal. There must be a deliberate policy orientation that seeks to empower the parents give their children access to tools for their physical, mental and health development. Rather than destroy the NYSC program that helps our children integrate and be exposed to better opportunities, the government ought to be more concerned on how the system could work without hitch. If we make the welfare of our children the baseline of the nation’s development program, it would become easy to develop policies that would make the nation’s greatness a reality. Therefore, a deliberate training of the children in identified areas of mutual advantage would be of great value to the nation in future.
There is a special appeal to parents. Some have gone to schools to berate and even beat up teachers for correcting their wards. Many have believed that the training that made them good adults have become barbaric to their fragile children. Character development is being thrown into the waste bins, while education attainment only seems the big deal. Many parents are ready to buy examination questions, get mercenaries write exams for their wards, and also shield them from honest labour and correction. These acts, borne out of ignorance, are not acts love. Rather it is a systematic destruction of the child, the family, and the nation. Let us be bold enough to tell our children the blunt truth, even if it pains. Let us call sin by its right name and cooperate with those inculcating good moral values in the hearts of our wards.
Children are rewards from God. In them are the answers to several prayers made in religious centres. That means that our future has been deposited on our cradle. While parents are struggling to build these children, government must realize and accept the fact children belong to and are the responsibilities of a reasonable government. The time has come for the deliberate moulding of these children to become the great leaders, scientists, technicians, social beings and creative inventors that would wake up this sleeping giant. Our future does not need the services of any soothsayer, metaphysician, oracles, or prophets. The way and manner we treat our children now reveals the future. The Bible keeps telling the Government at all levels, ‘train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it’. Our children are our future.