Every child is entitled to their rights as they are part of humans on Earth. We are all equally entitled to our rights without discrimination. These rights are interconnected, dependent on each other, and cannot be separated. United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF defines childhood as the time for children to be in school (either at home with family or in the four walls of an educational facility or online) and at play to grow strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults.
As the saying goes, ‘Oran a azu nwa’ which when translated from Nigeria Igbo Language means: ‘It takes a village to raise a child!’
This privileged time is more than just a gap between the day of birth and when the child becomes an adult. It is the state, condition, and quality of a child’s life. It is a precious time in which children should live free from fear, safe from violence, and protected from abuse and exploitation.
Today we celebrate children’s day amidst a devastating (COVID-19) pandemic which has crippled almost all things on planet earth. This year’s celebration is a unique one, as it marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC).
The convention came to with great promise to every child, to protect and fulfill their rights. Contained in this treaty is the idea that children are not just objects who belong to their parents and for whom decisions are made or adults in training. Rather, they are human beings and individuals with their own rights. It is a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop, and flourish with dignity. But we still see children’s rights being violated today in spite of a convention such as the UNCRC. Many have been denied quality healthcare, good education, and access to protection from hurt/violence. Some have become child laborers on the streets of our cities where they hawk different items to support their families. Some have become early mothers by reason of forced marriages, some child soldiers, etc.
Childhood is being redefined daily as the world keeps changing with the advancement of digital technology, climate change, long-term conflict, mass exodus, and the rise of deadly diseases such as Lassa fever, Ebola, and now COVID-19. For example the education of our children has been affected by the complete lockdown of our schools; a measure put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The good news is: new opportunities are emerging to help realize their rights.
In February 2020, two photographers from TELLTHATSTORY (Edgar Imafidon and Babawale Obayanju) volunteered to document in photos the effort put forward by EDUPLAY (led by Dr. Megor Ikuenobe), Play.360 (led by Professor Jonathan Racek) and EDO SUBEB (led by Dr. Joan Osas Oviawe) to construct a playground for children of Ivbiyenevba Primary school, Benin city.
The project gave the children a room to activate Article 28, 29, and 31 of the UNCRC.
And I quote: Article 28 (right to education) Every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity and their rights. Richer countries must help poorer countries achieve this.
Article 29 (goals of education) Education must develop every child’s personality, talents, and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
Article 31 (leisure, play, and culture) Every child has the right to relax, play, and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.
The playground functions as a play site and also a place to learn.
Children are our biggest assets for a Just, Inclusive, Peaceful, and Prosperous world. It is our responsibility to demand that world leaders from governments, businesses, families, and communities end child rights violations now.
We must commit to action to make sure every child, has every right.
The text was written Babawale Obayanju and edited by Joyce Ebebeinwe.