THE United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has appealed to Nigerian universities and other tertiary institutions to mainstream Child Rights Curriculum into their programmes.
UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Enugu, Juliet Chiluwe, made the call on Thursday, March 23, at a Two-Day Training of Trainers (ToT) in Child Rights Curriculum, organised by The Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in conjunction with UNICEF, in Enugu, Enugu State.
The gathering had at least 12 academics and about 30 journalists.
Chiluwe, who oversees eight states for UNICEF, including the five South-East states and three others, commended the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka, Anambra State, for being the first tertiary institution in Nigeria to endorse child rights curriculum as a general studies course, and making it compulsory for its Mass Communication students.
She said Child’s Rights Reporting Curriculum (CRRC) for tertiary institutions became imperative because communicating children’s rights was challenging.
According to her, a broad range of abuse against children emanates from ignorance of what constitutes a child’s right.
“This great opportunity helps to broaden the scope of knowledge and exposure of the communication students and practitioners of Mass Communication by infusion of the Child Rights concerns, which are also topical concerns for human development.”
Different experts who spoke at the training said when students, especially those studying Mass Communication and Law, understand child rights from school, it would be easy for them to put them in the right perspectives when practising.
In a presentation titled “The Foundation of Child’s Rights”, a veteran journalist, Jide Johnson, who holds an academic doctorate, said children constitute half of the population in most developing countries and are more vulnerable to poverty and abuse.
He explained that the effects of poverty and abuse often left indelible marks on children’s development and potential.
A child is a person under 18, as defined by the Nigerian Child Rights Act (2003) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
Johnson summarised child’s rights as a wide range of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights/entitlements based on four human rights principles: universality, indivisibility, accountability and interdependence/inter-relatedness.
He explained that the actions of many adults in the country were harmful to children, including misconduct and other unlawful practices.
The journalist noted that children suffer as casualties of war or violence, victims of racial discrimination, neglect, malnutrition and hunger, infectious diseases, poverty and deprivation, cruelty and exploitation, environmental degradation, lack of clean water, malnutrition and diseases, among others, which he said justified the reason the Child Rights Curriculum was introduced.
He said every child had the right to survival, development, protection and participation.
He argued that though Nigeria had its Child Rights Act (2003), children’s rights must be defined in society so that they are protected, and their voices are heard on issues that affect them.
“We must provide an environment for them to survive, develop, and achieve. We are here to advocate for these rights to be recognised and for the duty-bearers like caregivers to understand the responsibilities they have to ensure that rights are complied with by all stakeholders in our society.”
One of UNIZIK’s lecturers at the training, Nneka Umejiaku, a doctor, averred that every child had inalienable rights.
She said the new curriculum was a good development because it would create awareness.
“The importance of child rights can never be over-emphasised because they are the future of any country. The government must protect the children because they are future leaders of society.”
In a chat with The ICIR, Nkechi Okpalaobi, a professor of Law at UNIZIK, said she had been working on child rights in the university and within her locality since 2010 while studying for her doctorate.
While highlighting the gains of making child rights a course for students, she lauded UNICEF for promoting the curriculum.
“We, the media and the academia, must mainstream children’s rights in schools’ curriculum, engage in advocacy programmes that would further promote the good of the child.”
Njideka Ezeonyejiaku, one of the lecturers at the workshop, also spoke with The ICIR. She holds a doctorate and teaches at UNIZIK’s Mass Communication department.
She said while society must prioritise child’s rights, parents must avoid over-pampering their children to avoid making them irresponsible in the future.
She said many children, including adults in the universities, were finding it challenging to cope in school because they had developed a lackadaisical attitude to work or were prevented by their parents from doing domestic chores and related activities at home.
In a report commemorating 2022 Children’s Day, The ICIR explained how Nigeria was not doing enough for its children.
Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected]