Today affords me another opportunity to re-affirm our Administration’s commitment to the protection of children, a day to reflect on our roles and responsibilities as Parents and Leaders towards our children, and also assessing how far we have fared in this regard. As you may recall, one of the cardinal objectives of this Administration is the provision of quality education to our children as a fundamental foundation of economic and social development. In this regard, I am pleased to inform you that this Administration has recorded measurable success in the home grown school feeding programme as it has continued to expand.
Our children are our future, and the initiatives that come from them give confidence that our country has a bright future. I am always inspired and encouraged when I remember encounters I had with three of our young ones. When I was on medical vacation in 2017, three year old Maya Jammal recorded a prayer for my recovery, which went viral online. Also, 10 year old Aisha Aliyu Gebbi wrote a personal letter to me, describing herself as my “biggest fan”. Nicole Benson, then 12 years old, had contributed the sum of Five Thousand, Seven Hundred Naira and Eighty-Five kobo (N5,700.85) to my campaign in 2015.
The money was all saved up from her lunch and pocket allowance. There are millions of such children nationwide. I am very impressed by what our children have been able to do, and what the future holds for them. That is one reason why we are committed to the school feeding programme, to prepare a future generation of physically and intellectually robust children. At the last count, over 8.2 million children in 24 states of the Federation are being given free meals daily. This happens in 45,000 schools round the country. I therefore call on all stakeholders to support this programme to ensure that all the 36 States of the Federation and FCT are covered. This will promote substantially higher enrolment levels in our schools.
Since its inception in May, 2015, this Administration has also focused attention on addressing issues of child protection, participation and survival. In 2015, the campaign to end violence against children was launched which was commemorated in 2016. In November 2016, the Campaign to End Child Marriage was also launched to ensure that as many children as possible are able to fully enjoy their childhood and be protected from all the challenges associated with this phenomenon. These campaigns have been reinforced with sensitization campaigns in some States of the Federation.
The theme for this year’s celebration “Creating Safe Spaces for Children: Our Collective Responsibility” is an opportunity to promote the safety and security of our children. As a responsible Government, we are committed to ensuring that children are protected from violence and exploitation against them, and, that their environments are safe enough for them to pursue their educational attainments, discover their full potentials to grow into responsible citizens. This Administration has made giant strides in the protection of the Rights of the Nigerian Child and as a result of such efforts, Nigeria has been declared a Pathfinding Country on Ending Violence Against Children. This I believe is a collective achievement and I urge us to continue to build on the present momentum to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In our efforts to protect our children from abuse, exploitation and trafficking as well as provide safe, non-violent inclusive and effective learning environment in our schools, this Administration has directed the management of all Federal Government Colleges and advised all state owned schools across the Country to provide adequate measures of safety and security of their students. I again call on all schools management committees at all levels of public and private institutions to take adequate security measures and put in place mechanisms for safety of children.
May I therefore call on the Families, Security Agencies, Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders, Civil Society Organizations, Human Rights Activists, and the Society at large to rise up and take urgent and decisive actions to stem the unacceptable rising cases of violence against our children. We must ensure safety of our children in homes, schools, markets, worship centres, on the streets and everywhere at all times. Furthermore let me use this medium to appeal to parents not to relent in their efforts to send their wards to school, especially the girl child as her education reduces infant and maternal mortality and prevents early and child marriages. It also increases literacy and reduces poverty. The saying that to educate a woman is to educate the nation is very apt in this regard.
Finally, while I appreciate the security agencies for their efforts so far, I urge them to redouble their efforts in protecting children from danger and violence in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Child Rights Acts, 2003.
Once again, happy Children’s Day.