You are no doubt reading this right now because you have children’s wellbeing at heart. Like me, you may be wondering what exactly is the biggest challenge children might be facing in Nigeria. Prior to 2020 – now known as the year of the pandemic, there were a plethora of challenges children in Nigeria were faced with such as: under-age sex/teenage pregnancy, children getting drunk on alcohol and drugs, child abuse and molestation, children going to bed on empty stomach, children in danger of religious crisis, children running away from home for fear of an abusive parent or relation and the list goes on.
With children’s wellbeing at the heart of what I do, I carried out a research to find out what might be the biggest challenges children are faced with from parents, teachers and other adults in various fields of life and also from the children themselves. I read articles and listened to professionals in the field of child development, and I discovered that the Nigerian child like other children around the world is faced with varying degrees of lifestyle challenges.
Below are my findings on the realities of childhood in Nigeria:
– Nigeria is “a country of the young” with almost half the population (about 46 per cent) currently under the age of 15.
– Nigeria ranks higher in out-of-school children than anywhere else in the world.
– A little over one in three of Nigeria’s whole population lives below the poverty line, and children occupies about 75 per cent of this proportion.
– Nigeria also ranks the third highest absolute number of women and girls (19.9 million) who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cut worldwide, which is claimed to curb promiscuity, prepare girls for marriage, and conform to tradition.
Source – Unicef: https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/situation-women-and-children-nigeria
Humanium listed 9 problems as the challenges children in Nigeria are faced with. These are: poverty, discriminatory practices as it relates to handicapped children, right to health care, right to education, child abuse, street children, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and child trafficking. Source: Children of Nigeria – Humanium.
As a result of these problems highlighted by Humanium, Nigerian children are vulnerable to a wide range of abuses, crimes, and harmful traditional practices.
A national survey on Violence Against Children (VAC) conducted in 2014 indicated a high prevalence of sexual, physical, and emotional violence against children in Nigeria. Six out of every 10 children suffer one or more forms of violence – physical, sexual, and emotional – before they reach the age of 18 years, with more than 70 per cent suffering repeated abuse. The survey also highlighted the fact that very few children speak out about their experiences, and even fewer seek or receive services or justice – just five in 100 abused children ever receive the help that they need to recover. Source -Communication for Development | UNICEF Nigeria
Whether we signed up for these or not, the reality is that there are everyday challenges facing our everyday children in Nigeria and the truth is all children are exposed to toxic influences in varying degrees. With the compulsory lockdown arising from Covid19 pandemic, experts have identified increase in challenges such as anxiety, depression, self-harming, children watching pornography, masturbating and suicidal thoughts amongst children across the world.
We conducted a survey amongst children between the ages of 5 to 15 and it revealed their dire need for belonging, support and education. The questionnaire was given to children in both private and public schools in Lagos post covid19 lockdown, to ascertain the daily challenges they were facing. Their responses showed that if we could all have children’s wellbeing at heart and work together in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals 3 and 4, the next generation could live heathy lives, lead a stable economy, and escape poverty in Nigeria.
Here are some of the children’s challenges in their own words:
“Traffic, school workload, feeling left out, peer pressure, economic problems, world problems e.g global warming and end of the world”
– Age 13, Private School
“Transportation problem while coming to school. Text book in school. The problem I have in school is we need school bag. The problem I have at home why coming to school new uniform and child-traffic. Computer to use at home to study.”
– Age 14, Public School
“I am 12years old and my challenges are household chores and school no one in my house listens to me and makes me feel bad, I have many other problems but if I list them this paper wont be enough”
– Age 12, Private School
“Depression, fear of not fitting in, getting bullied, weird, anti-social (x1000), suicide”
– Age 11, Private School
“Transportation problem also cause many children to miss school. There is traffic so we use to come to school late. Child-trafficking – most children is hawking. Security guard to guide we children from danger.”
– Age 11, Public School
“Depression, inferiority complex, fear of getting bullied, I am psycho maniac, impatience”
– Age 11+, Private School
“I am fasing the challen transportation and my mother and father fight every day.”
– Age 11, Public School
“I cant sleep it is boring”
– Age 9, Private School
“All the games I have played in the past have just been ringing in my head.
I usually feel embarrassed perhaps in my class and I feel my face go purple
Popularity keeps stressed most of the time. I spend most of my time thinking of ways to get popular like creating public games, and Tv shows and so many more.”
– Age 9, Private School
“when I write to much. When I play to much.”
– Age 5, Private school
“My problem is mother she did not have enough money to train me.”
– Age 12, Public School
“School, happiness in life”
– Age 12, Private School
– Age 15, Public School
“Transportation e.g school bus. All my mate are in JSS3 but me I am in primary 6. I need double promotion. Textbook. Computer to use in secondary school. The activities of the hoodlum. My father is dead now im with my uncle. I need a phone to use in my online education. People use to mock at home because I can read but im still in primary school.”
The above realities explain why the wellbeing of the Nigerian child should be given adequate attention and a viable solution should be provided by all stakeholders. Making the world a better place does not mean we all have to be doing big things but even the small things done consistently can make the world a better place.
Children are the bridge to the future, and they need our commitment. All children deserve an equal opportunity to be able to embrace a meaningful life as we are all unaware of who each child might become tomorrow. Children are fondly called the leaders of tomorrow, but the question is how well are these future leaders equipped today? I believe that by the end of this article, we will all work together to improve the wellbeing of children in Nigeria and equip them to become more resilient and better communicate their needs. You might be wondering at this point what the missing puzzle to everyday challenges facing everyday children is?
As we joined others around the world on September 10th to mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2021, let’s stop and think about our children and the everyday challenges they are faced with. How can you support the Nigerian child? How can you prevent suicide among children?
The simple idea behind this article is that life coaching directly aimed at children can greatly make a difference in suicide prevention amongst children in Nigeria.
Kids’ life coaching educates and enables children to find inspiration, motivation, and happiness. Kids life coaching is the missing puzzle to everyday challenges of everyday children as it offers children the opportunity to have a role model outside of their parents. Someone trusted that they could connect with, a nonjudgmental tour guide for life.
Deborah Lucky-Deekor, writes from No 13b, Mambilla Street, Aso drive, Abuja.