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An Inclusive Children’s Day Celebration – For Children in Rural Communities

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By Bukola Jegede

A report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has ranked Nigeria high among nations with the highest populations of out-of-school children. Seven (7) of the twelve countries reviewed are African countries. The report shows that one out of every five Nigerian child is out of school. Majority of these children are from slum and rural communities.

With approximately 10.5 million kids out of school, Nigeria tops the table of 12 other countries with which it accounts for 47 per cent of the global out-of-school population. The other countries being Pakistan (5.1 million); Ethiopia (2.4 million); India (2.3 million); Philippines (1.5 million); Cote d’Ivoire (1.2 million); Burkina Faso (1million); Niger (1 million); Kenya (1 million); Yemen (0.9 million); Mali (0.8 million) and South Africa (0.7 million).

Of all these countries, according to UNESCO, Nigeria is among the four that has experienced the highest increase since 1999. “Nigeria is one of only four among these twelve countries where the number increased in absolute terms,” the report noted. “It now accounts for almost one in five out-of-school children in the world.”

“Children are the future leaders” people say, what will happen to the children living in rural communities. My heart bleeds each and every day that I see commentaries about the living conditions of rural dwellers.

A study shows that more than half of rural dwellers are prone to visit private medical care-givers or seek self-medication with medicines available in the home ( Riley,Leew; etal 2007, Slum Health: Diseases of neglected populations. BMC International Health and Human Right). The living condition of these children makes them more vulnerable to certain disease like cholera, measles, typhoid, tuberculosis and malaria. The funniest thing is that the parent of a sick child in rural community will prefer treating the child using ‘Agbo” i.e. traditional treatment or visit Charlatan Doctors. My trip to Makoko in Lagos was an eye-opener to the living conditions of children residing in rural communities. I cannot imagine the amount of mosquitoes that would feast on the children.

Child malnutrition is more common in slums, rural communities. Widespread child malnutrition in rural communities/Slum is closely related to family income, mothers’ food practice, mothers’ educational level, and maternal employment or housewifery. Poverty may result in inadequate food intake when people cannot afford to buy and store enough food, which leads to malnutrition. Another common cause is mothers’ faulty feeding practices, including inadequate breastfeeding and wrongly preparation of food for children. Some mothers sometimes fed their children instant food instead of a normal meal. And about 70% of the mothers did not provide their children three meals every day. Mothers’ lack of education leads to their faulty feeding practices. Many mothers in slums don’t have knowledge on food nutrition for children. Maternal employment also influences children’s nutritional status. For the mothers who work outside, their children are prone to be malnourished. These children are likely to be neglected by their mothers or sometimes not carefully looked after. I really applaud what Food Shelter is doing in Lagos. They took it upon themselves to start feeding children living in rural/ Slum areas. I volunteered during their visit to some slum area during last year yuletide season; I could see the joy, excitement that fills those kids when they were given food and water.

I volunteer with Stay in School Initiative, there; we needed to enroll children to school, buttressing the findings made by UNESCO. Imagine a 7years old child that has never set his foot in a school building? How pathetic!

What will happen to children that don’t not have equal opportunities as those living in urban areas? They cannot watch Barney, Donut Man, and other children movies to build them; rather they are thrust into a world of uncensored films, filling their minds with filthy things.

I can continue to mention the state of living and what the rural/Slum dwellers are facing till eternity. All they need is a group of people that are selfless that will take it upon themselves to transform their lives. Children day for them should also be fun as it were for other children.

So today as the urban  kids go to amusement parks, go shopping at malls or eat out at expensive eateries, bear in mind the plight of children in rural areas; they are children too, Nigerians too and Africans too. Let come to their rescue as we together create an inclusive Children’s’ day celebration in the years to come. Lets join the likes of Bukola Jegede, Otto Orandam and Bayo Omoboriowo in their LightUp,  SlumtoSchool and Photograph a Child projects respectively. Together Africa will continue to rise! We continue to pray for the over 200 abducted school girls in Nigeria



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