Stakeholders have called for the domestication of the Child Right Act in all the states in the North West to help protect the rights of children in the region in accessing education.
Though the Act made the provision of education to all children compulsory, only Kaduna state in the region has domesticated the law.
The other states of Kano, Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina are yet to make any meaningful progress in domesticating the Act.
In Kebbi, where stakeholders said over 70 percent of children are out of school, the State Government said it was waiting for the State House of Assembly to domesticate the Act.
Mrs Halima Dikko, the Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, said once the house passes the bill and it is assented to by the governor, things would be different for children in the state.
“With the passage of the bill, we can then enforce all rights of children and stop them from street begging,’’ Dikko said.
According to her, children have the right to health, education, family life, play and recreation, as well as the right to be protected from abuse and harm.
The permanent secretary noted that children are often exposed to all kinds of dangers on streets when they are made to source for income for their families through hawking and begging.
Mr Rotimi Olawake, Executive Director and Co- Founder of Youth Hub Africa, said, “as concerned civil society organisation and citizens, the growing risks faced by children due to the delayed passage and implementation of the Child Rights Bill in Kebbi State cannot be overemphasised.
“The rights of children need to be given urgent attention.
“The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) record has shown that approximately six out of 10 Nigerian children under the age of 18 years experience some form of physical, sexual and emotional violence before the age of 18.’’
He said it was the duty of government, parents, organisations and other bodies to ensure that children have better treatment and bright future in life.
The Deputy Director, Public Relations’ Department of the State Universal Basic Education Board, (SUBEB), Alhaji Musa Aljannare, revealed that the state has over 1,806 primary schools, with 15,781 teachers and 485,356 pupils compromising of 303,607 boys and 181,781 girls.
Commenting, the Head of UNICEF Sokoto Field Office, Mr Mohammad Mohiuddin, said about 70 per cent of children in Kebbi are out of school.
“Kebbi is one of those states in Nigeria with huge number of children who are out of the school; 70 per cent of children in Kebbi are actually out of school,” Muhiuddin said.
He however said that the fund had sourced for 75 million dollars from the Qatar Foundation under the `Educate a Child Programme’ to get the children into school to guarantee their future.
In Kano State, the state’s Coordinator, Legal Aid Council, Abubakar Umar said the process for the domestication of the Act in the state has been “very slow’’.
He however said that a lot is being done to expand access to education and protect children in the state in spite of the non domestication of the Act.
“Apart from the Child Right Act, the state government has various laws that deal with welfare of children, like the Children and Young Persons Law which makes it compulsory for parents to send their children to school,’’ he said.
Umar said there are also laws enacted long before the Act in the state which prohibit hawking and street begging.
The Coordinator advised parents to give their children to school so as to enable them be good citizens who would make them proud in future.
On his part, the Administrative Secretary of the State Parents’ Teacher Association, Alhaji Shehu Abubakar called for the quick passage of the bill domesticating the Act.
He noted with concern the increasing rate of school dropouts in the state and said that the domestication of the Act would help stem the tide.
Abubakar appealed to parents to enrol their children in school and cater for their daily needs to secure their future.
In Katsina State, an official, Hajiya Rabi Sani said the state government has inaugurated a technical committee headed by former Chief Judge, Justice Sadiq Mahuta to advise on key areas of the Act that suit the religious and cultural values of people in the state.
She said that once the committee concludes its assignment, government would forward a bill to the State House of Assembly for the domestication of the Act.
Alhaji Kabir Lawal, the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics in the state Ministry of Education, said based on data from the UNICEF Global Initiative of Out-of-School Children, the state has 620,667 out of school children, about 51 percent of total school aged children.
According to the data, the state has about 1,125,905 school aged children.
Already, UNICEF Chief of Education in Nigeria, Mr Terry Durnnian during a visit to the state, had promised that his organisation would introduce skills acquisition to motivate parents to sustain their children in school.
In Zamfara, the state government said it was being careful in domesticating the Act to avoid conflict with religious provisions that guide the lives of people in the state.
The state’s Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, Hajiya Balkisu Bungudu said in spite of the non domestication of the Act, there were various programmes to ensure effective protection of children and to improve their lives for future development.
“We are making efforts with all stakeholders to reduce street begging and hawking in the state.
“We are conducting a census of vulnerable children and their parents and care givers across the state; the programme is aimed at empowering parents to take better care of their children.
“We have seen the positive changes since we started the programme, those parents and care givers we have empowered are now making efforts in taking care of the responsibility of their children especially in education, health and general well being.
“We also run another programme where we partner with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and 17 emirate councils in the state to tackle the Almajiri problem.
“You know, the issue of Almajiri is one of the major issues increasing vulnerability of children in the society, so we are working hand in hand with NAPTIP and our traditional rulers in reducing such problems in the society,’’ she added.
On the issue of school enrolment, the state government says it is partnering with the UNICEF to improve the enrollment rate.
The Chairman of SUBEB, Alhaji Murtala Jangebe said UNICEF and Qatar Foundation have initiated the Educate a Child project, supporting parents to educate their children.
Over 240,000 out of school children were identified in Bukkuyum, Maradun and Zurmi Local Government Areas (LGAs) alone.
In Sokoto State, the process for the domestication of the Act is still a working document.
Mrs Aisha Muhammad, Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Women Affairs, said that the government had engaged developmental partners, established technical working committee and commenced public sensitisation preparatory to domesticating the Act.
“As part of the ongoing processes, we started with the state priority agenda formulated to guide toward domesticating the law.
“ It included an action plan with child right law requirement, comprehensive coverage of all categories of people and their respective needs, as all children irrespective of their backgrounds are vulnerable in the society.
“Next is to launch the state priority agenda document in the state, then give it out to various groups and community organisations for proper scrutiny before taking it to the State House of Assembly.
“It need to suit Islamic principles and our traditional laws.’’
She explained that the committee has representation of religious groups, the Sultanate Council, State Assembly, academics, ministries and departments to ensure that religious and cultural norms were all catered for.
“ Everything had been put in place to set the ball rolling on domestication of the Act in Sokoto state,’’ she said.
Also speaking, the speaker of the state Students’ Parliament, Malam Abdullahi Usman, appealed for the domestication of the act and all programmes that would uplift children towards a brighter future.
He also called for improvement in the education sector including provisions of key facilities including libraries to enhance learning and scholarship, recruitment of more teachers and upgrade of infrastructure.
On enrollment and out of school children, Dr Jabbi Kilgori, the state’s Commissioner for Higher Education, said various measures taken by the state government in the last three years have raised enrollment and brought down the figure of out of school children drastically.
He said that school dropout figure hovers around 30 per cent, but said government would soon crash the figure because of significant improvement in the education sector and empowerment programmes for parents.
Kilgori said the state hopes to have its largest ever enrollment of 1.4 million pupils in 2018 with the integration of 4,000 Qur’anic schools into existing formal school system.
However, in Kaduna State, the Child Protection and Welfare Law, 2018, passed to domesticate the Child Right Act, has made basic education free and compulsory.
The law also made government responsible for providing education while parents must send their children to school or risk going to jail for two months with a fine of N5, 0000.
The state’s Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, however, said that the law has been forwarded to the State Judiciary for gazetting ahead of full implementation.
According to her, the law will require among other things the setting up of the state and local government’s child protection and welfare implementation committee, and designation of family court at all levels.
“It will also require professionalism and training of court personnel on how to handle children legal issues.
“We are doing all we can to ensure that the law is fully implemented and ensure that our children get the best from parents, guardians and the government,’’Baba said.
Also commenting, Malam Musa Imam, Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, of the state Universal Basic Education Board, said that about 727,764 children in the state are out of school.
Imam said that the board, with support from the World Bank, under the Basic Education Services for All programme, and other stakeholders was making efforts to get such children back to school.
He, nonetheless noted that the child protection and welfare law, if implemented, would drastically take-off the streets thousands of children hawking and begging.
In his comment, Dr Zakari Adam, the Chief Field Office, UNICEF Kaduna, commended the state government for domesticating the law and pledged in its implementation.
“On the streets of Kaduna, you will see a huge population of children hawking and begging for alms instead of being in school where they should be.
“We supported the state in ensuring that the law was passed. We will continue to support the government in ensuring its full implementation to assist in taking-off the streets the alarming number of children begging for alms.
“UNICEF is determined to mobilise resources to support the state get all children back to school and tackle all forms of violence against children, “Adam said.