It is the season to celebrate children, and that is happening in many churches and out there in schools and homes, culminating in Children’s Day on May 27.
Oh how many of us remember this day with nostalgia; how we would hardly sleep deeply in the night of May 26 with our little minds set on May 27, our own day. We would have washed, starched and ironed out our school uniforms and readied our footwear, set for march past at the stadium. That is after a few weeks of practice in our schools.
Sometimes, there were also cultural dance and sports competitions. And yes, we often had free meals or at least cabin biscuits and soft drinks back in the school a few days afterwards. For whatever it was worth, our governments remembered us and that was some fun for us. Those sure were the glorious years of childhood, in an equally glorious era in our country.
Pan to 2014 and you find us in an entirely different kind of country where even being in school is precarious. Killing, kidnap, terror. No thanks to the heinous group that calls itself Boko Haram, and the shame for its continued success so far is collectively ours as a nation and people.
For this reason, on this year’s Children’s Day, there cannot be many things to wish for than just one thing – Bring Back Our Girls! Yes, the campaign for this has gone on for too long, reaching a crescendo two weeks ago when many world leaders and influential persons signed up to the trending hash tag of #BringBackOurGirls or #BBOG.
But so far, little has come out of it. And this is where frustration begins to set in. Soon, many will go back to their life routines. But where are the girls? What is happening to them? What is going through their minds? What about their parents and siblings? Oh, what about other children in schools, especially boarding schools across the land? If we listen well enough, there is a feeling of fear among many of our children about going to and staying in school, if others like them could be harvested from their academic environments for one month and life is going on ‘normal’ in the rest of the country.
Or isn’t life back to full throttle? Even with the bombs going off in Kano and Jos in the last one week, the two major political parties were planning and staging major campaign events few days after, as they seek to win the Ekiti gubernatorial election. Every day, especially in the electronic media, we are assaulted with direct and indirect political campaigns. Even the reactions of politicians to the fate of the children have been laced with partisanship, at a time one expected to see a pan-Nigerian attempt to resolve the matter. That is despite the earlier promise by them to stop all campaigns until the children are brought back. Now we know better that they did not mean what they said and did not say what they meant.
With the teachers’ union threatening to shut down all schools in sympathy with the abducted and yet to be brought back school girls, and more than 173 teachers lost in all the attacks so far, life could never be more gloomy for our children. And if such shutdown ever happens, we would have unwittingly played into the hands of the evil group whose aim anyway is to stop education, as they claim.
What society owes children is safety, and this must be provided wherever these young ones are, especially where they are legitimately. For their level of development, they need to be provided quality education as guarantee for a future out of poverty, and nothing must stop society from doing so. The state must do everything to provide that safe environment for learning. For residential schools, particularly, security agencies need to exercise extra surveillance around their locations as preventive measures, rather than wait to react after an attack.
As we mark Children’s Day this week, all we ask is for them to Bring Back Our Girls and save our children and their schools from future attacks.