May 27: Save the Child from the Hyenas
I understood, once I held a baby in my arms, why some people...keep having them, Spalding Gray, intoned. The harmless joy and soulful delight that underlie the period of childhood are inestimable, unquantifiable and remarkably soothing. When you throw a soccer ball at a child and go on to close your eyes, you wouldn't stop to envision the pure perfect peace that naturally swims into your heart as the child makes a breezy jump into the air to give the ball an impeccable catch. Anyone, indeed, without them, misses the ecstatic ambience that they provide. Children are joy bringers - being around them is fun and laughter galore.
Across the world, children's day is uniquely celebrated, though, distinctive dates for different countries. In Nigeria, May 27 is a perfect day, fully dedicated to the honour of Nigerian children. According to the Black's Law Dictionary, a child is a person under the age of majority. This age tends to vary from one nation to the other, however, 18 years, in Nigeria, is put at the age of majority, thus, any Nigerian below the age of 18 is a child. Children are valued and priced, in fact, they are both the present and the future assets of the world. There seems never to be a time, that a century or an era does not have them- they are the sugar in our tea.
In consideration of this, several legal instruments and policies have been enacted to protect them and their rights. Section 218 of the Criminal Code , for instance, puts anyone who has an unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 years as guilty of felony and liable to imprisonment for life. This reveals how much we love them- they are the apple of God's eyes and our eyes. Children are delicate in thinking, fragile in appearance and weak in stature, nonetheless, they are mission-driven. With the right environment for them and adequate quality education, they are sure to surpass your pedigree and drown your achievements - they strive without barriers, ceilings and limitations. They are a metaphor of the rainbow and a quintessential proof that God is still with us and for us.
It seems only logical that they will be guided and not molested; they will be loved and not abused; they will be inspired and not battered, since childhood damage usually leaves a bitter memory for the child and grows them into poor-spirited adults. In furtherance of their sensitivity and fragility, WHO reported in 2002 that about 31,000 deaths attributed to homicide featured children of 15 years of age. When children are abused, molested, bullied, maltreated, induced, fingered and even vaginalized, they barely recover from the trauma that follows. Most times - like the title of a novel - the man died - the real man in them died, too. They can only waddle and stagger through adulthood with battered self-esteem and tattered self-image. Warning! Don't take their thing from them, it is special to them.
Children's hyenas are everywhere. Some of them are hidden in our schools, mosques and churches. These days, under the very roof of their parents or guardians. Fathers now take the thing of their daughters - a repugnant horror I can't withstand. Sadly but similarly, it is not strange to learn of a child's defilement by his teacher - another bitter pill to swallow. School is not safe, home is not secured, as hyenas lurk around in different forms.
The child's hyenas are the kidnappers, rapists, paedophiles, neglectors, the Sheik who seeks the hand in marriage of a child, the parents who leave scars on the body of the child in the name of discipline, the prophet who undresses the girl child - fondling and caressing - her in the name of stream bath. Children predators or hyenas are child bullies, manipulators and those who put pans in the hands of children to roam the neighbourhood seeking naira and kobo from both the good Samaritans and the masked hyenas. Hyenas are ubiquitous. They are everywhere. They are in our schools and on our streets, in our churches and our mosques. Hyenas are in our neighbourhood. They are in the children's room and the children's neighbour's room. Everywhere you go, you see them. Together, we can save the child from the hyenas. Hyenas are the children's enemies and the collective foes of our souls. Do not cover them or protect them. Sound the whistle! All hyenas must repent or be banished from our society. Children deserve a loving world. Let's make it a safe and a better place for them. No matter how small a person is, he is still a person. Children are the future adults as adults are outdated children. Save the child!!!
(A Lagos-based IELTS Trainer)