MEMORIES of our childhood will no doubt give us nostalgic surprises as it reminds us of our early beginnings. Childhood is therefore a phase of life from infancy to the stage of minor adulthood. Before year 2000, children and youth days were combined and jointly celebrated, until the United Nations finally pronounced that the International Children and Youth Day should be separated and celebrated apart on May 27 and August 12 respectively. In addition, the African Charter was also declared every June 16 as the “Day of the African Child” in order to drive home the inextricable importance of the welfare and holistic development of the African child. Another giant stride towards addressing the plight of the Nigerian child was the passage and adoption of the Child Rights Act in 2003. Without doubt, children and youth, who are commonly referred to as “future leaders” are the most-vulnerable segments of Nigeria’s vast population. As such, pragmatic and conscientious efforts must therefore be constantly made, towards the provision of meaningful social security structures and programmes that would effectively shape them morally, intellectually and spiritually in order to re-direct the present disheartening down trend of the Nigerian society.
“Children depends on us to speak for them because they are voiceless (powerless) and they suffer most, when national resources are mismanaged. Therefore, they need us to bring their special needs to the notice of those in power.” Statistics have it that over ten million Nigerian children are presently being classified as “underprivileged and deprived children.” This figure portends great danger for the nation, if this sordid situation is not urgently arrested. In fact, there are so many shocking and highly disturbing statistics on the Nigerian children, ranging from child abuse (in different forms), child labour, out-of-school children, street children, child mortality issues, among others Some renowned writers and musicians, specially dedicated their works to “the child.” Amongst them are The African Child by Camara Laye; Ake by Wole Soyika; Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence. In the same vein, some English writers’ works on the child are Paradise Regained by John Milton; The child is father of the man by William Woodsworth.
Among the musicians, we have The child by King Sunny Ade; Precious gift by Chief Ebenezer Obey, among others. All the above listed works were part of various attempts aimed at advocating and re-awakening us from our slumber of gross neglect and abuse of the child. A child does not willingly choose his or her parents, family, tribe, society or nation. Rather, we all grew up to find ourselves where we are; and where we find ourselves individually, go a very long way, to determine who and what we are today. Therefore, parental characters and care, family, kinship and societal values, wherein a child lives and grow, coupled with national character (civic culture and orientational goals), among others, are key components which largely impact on the mental, moral, intellectual, psychological, physiological, and the overall social development of a child. In essence, these fundamental foundations prepare him or her for the roles and responsibilities the child will later play in life. In this light, we must all come to the realization that the welfare and capacity of the nation tomorrow depend heavily on the established developmental process enjoyed by our children today.
In essence, the role of the family institution as a veritable social unit of cannot be over-emphasised. A nation is built on the foundation of various family structures whose members interface in the larger society to pilot the affairs of their nation. In comparative terms, a nation’s future growth largely depends on the socioeconomic well-being, as well as the security and stability of various family structures. As a result, a child’s immediate environment is without doubt his first school from infancy. At this stage of a child’s life, the five senses of taste, sight, touch, feel and smell constitute the child’s means of communication. The sensual learning process of a child, can therefore be summed up thus : “if a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn; if a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight; if a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy; if a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty; if a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient; if a child lives with encouragement, he learns to have confidence; if a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate; if a child lives with fairness, he learns justice; if a child lives with security, he learns to have faith; if a child lives with approval, he likes himself; if a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.”
The sociopolitical cum economic situation in Nigeria has now become very pathetic and worrisome because Nigerian children and youth who should be properly groomed as future leaders have been derailed, demoralised and psychologically injured by the multitude of shameless and heartless people who are saddled with the responsibility of managing national resources for both human and national development. These bunch of unpatriotic people, who should serve as role models to the younger ones and the larger society are not only stealing public funds, they are also destroying the sanctity of government, as well as social development infrastructures of the society in general, most especially education. At no other time than now have Nigerian children been faced with unprecedented threats. Without doubt, Nigeria’s future is now gravely endangered due to the gross negligence of those who are saddled with managing our national affairs. In the words of Martin Luther King (Jnr.), “the property of a nation cannot be measured by the abundance of her public buildings. But rather, through the numbers of her cultivated citizens.”
In the light of the above salient facts, the roles of youth organisations, most especially those who focus on imparting religious, moral and civic education, character building, leadership training, patriotism and selfless service, are a sine-qua-non to the attainment of sustainable success in this direction. It therefore behoves government at all levels to identify and synergise with these organisations by strengthening them towards achieving their lofty aims and objectives. Thereby, pupils and students in particular, should be encouraged to join such voluntary youth organisations like the Boys Scout, Man O’ War, Boys/Girls Brigade, Red Cross, Girls Guide, Sheriff Guard, among others.
- Comrade Abdullahi is a veteran youth activist.
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