Continued from last week
We shall continue the last part of the speech by Mariam Alade and Emmanuel Okechukwu. The two teenagers wowed the crowd with their inspiring talk during the Naija Youth Talk event organised by UNICEF and partners to mark the 2019 International Literacy Day recently. Last week, we used the part of their conversation that focused on the need for teenagers to express their views, receive and share information. This week, the concluding part of the conversation focuses on Article 12 of the CRC: Every child has the right to express his or her opinion and to have that opinion listened to and taken into consideration when decisions are being made that affect him or her, or other children
Fortunately, the stories Emmanuel just shared are our true stories, stories of our friends but unfortunately, that is not the true picture. I also want to share the story of our friends who represent the millions of out of school children in Nigeria and Africa. They are our brothers, who at the age of four to ten are forced to go out on the street to beg for their daily bread because of culture or religion.
They are called the Almajiris. These children deserve better. I also want to share the story of our sisters, who at the age of nine, ten are forced to get married to older men because their parents are poor and need someone to train them or because of culture. These children also deserve better.
I will not forget the young girls and boys that are brought from several villages to the cities to serve as house boys and house girls, they are literally house slaves because the biological children in these homes are older than they are but these children are forced to do the chores that biological children cannot do. These children also deserve better. Some children are at home, idle. They are doing nothing and they represent the statistics of over 10 million out of school children in Nigeria alone. These children also deserve better. Every morning as I go to school, I come across several children in my community, who have never and might never go to school. They are the boys, who go with their fathers to the stream to fish. The girls that go with their mothers to the markets to sell and those that hawk on the streets. You might have driven past them while coming, you may still drive past them while going. These children also deserve better.
My friends who attend public schools and go to school, every day but do not have quality education. Some of their classrooms are dilapidated, some of their curricula are outdated and some of their teachers are not competent. These children also deserve better. In fact, every child like myself and Emmanuel deserve a Nigeria that works for all of us. We deserve a Nigeria where every child can dream and watch that dream come true. We deserve a Nigeria where our rights are promoted, protected and supported. We deserve a Nigeria where our schools nurture our talent not forcing certain expectation or profession on us we deserve teachers that will not just teach us about history but inspire us to make history we deserve teachers that will not just teach us about the science and inventions of Albert Einstern and the Isaac Newtons but teachers that will inspire us to invent so that future generation can learn about our inventions. We desire teachers that will not just be interested in names of noise makers and punish us for talking but teachers that will teach us to use our words and voices to speak up. We want an educational system that will not just teach us to pass exams but an educational system that will prepare to build a Nigeria of our dream
So when next you see a child, even when you get home to meet your children, don’t just ask them what they would like to be when they grow up. Be patient to listen to whatever they have to say and don’t just shut them up while they are speaking. Encourage them to explore their artistic creativity, inspire them to be innovators and inventors. Inspire them to transform their communities in their little ways so that together we can build the Nigeria of our dreams. Thank you