The unfortunate situation of our children having actually participating in the rebel war, both as perpetrators and victims is a near indelible scar that can heal but definitely may not easily erase. This perforce warrants special focus as only when enough provision is made for our children that we can say that our country has a future worth writing home about.
Nature is transient and anything that was young yesterday must be old today. Those over forty today were indeed kids in the sixties yesterday. There is absolutely nothing any one can do about this… it is a fact of life the child is father of the man.
Why our situation is so precarious is because children who grow up living in violence are more likely to turn to violence themselves as a method of problem solving. Children represent the majority of civilians affected by armed conflict. Re-establishing protection for children is a powerful way to bring back respect for the dignity of the child. In some families today economic hardship has so lowered the dignity of parents that children are not accorded the right to enjoy their childhood. There has actually been a big gap or vacuum created by the lost war years.
The threats which children face during conflicts are unique and directly relate to their vulnerability as children. Children are more likely to be abducted and forced to serve in armed factions, their lives may be valued less, and they may suffer greater psychological consequences and be more affected by violence given that they are still forming ideas about the world and themselves.
This is why the recently launched free medical scheme for pregnant women and their under fives is one action that signals a clear path for the country’s growth. For a country reeling under the UN Development index, moves that depict the necessary political will are just too welcome. The problems that the scheme is facing do not rob it as a big plus those we should hold on to.
Just the other day Senior Social Welfare personnel gave a succinct analogy between chidren and the rice plant. He was making a statement at the launching of the CES Ambassador girls Scholarship Program in Koinadugu District. He said that just as farmers tend their crops, protect it from weeds and fence it from ravaging animals, so parents and community members should nurture, safeguard and protect children. Farmers weed out unwanted grass or plants around the rice plant, Fence the farm when rodents threaten it and also scare birds off when the rice is getting ready for harvest. Children deserve and should be accorded the same precious care.
I have always wondered why children’s clothes most times have animals on them. Perhaps it could be related to their effervescent spirit. There was this little kid who had the inscription Major Trouble on his combat t-shirt. But oh how lovely it is to be with kids, their innocent actions portrays how marvelous nature is at work with them.
Angelique Kidjo, the celebrated musician once said that we cannot use poverty as an excuse to allow others to exploit us. Though this could be debatable, for some people the truth underlying it is stark. We blame so many things to poverty that it seems that we have given up all hope to fight for survival. In this crazy world do we have a choice when it comes to survival?
Education for our kids is no doubt a major priority. Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child talks about education.
Free primary education for every child is stressed. Education should help the development of the child’s personality and talents with a view to preparing them for responsible adulthood. Respect for human rights as well as the cultural and national values of the child’s country and those of others has to be ensured.
A big irony here is that although rights and culture are being referred to herein the same vein, in our country the latter often jeopardized progress on the former. We are left confused as to what to do. Take the case of cultural trends that sacrifice the girl child to early marriage. The whole view of the girl child and her purpose in life is warped in many African cultures. We can see this reflective on the number of educated women in those cultural settings.
Do we have to cling on to so-called cultures that are life denying and unprogressive? Do we want to wallow in mediocrity in this 21st century? Well the choice is ours to have a recognizable position in this Global Village or be its dust bin. I am sure we want to stand tall small though we are in size. In all, these children should be place first…do we really have a choice in this matter? I really do not think so.
We are lucky here in Sierra Leone because we have a youthful population. In South Korea where they have an ageing population there is a policy that allows people to leave work early and go home so that they have enough time to make babies. Our own problem is that the bulk of our population is children and youth. They need to be guided properly if coexistence is to be secured. Their dynamism energy and vibrancy have to be utilized in the most profitable manner otherwise our society may smoke itself out.
In a situation where a state cannot provide guarantees to safeguard the rights of the child for whatever reasons it becomes very difficult to realize the lofty ideals embedded in the child Rights Act. Many people were clamoring for an act of Parliament on Child rights. This has been done but has the situation of our children improved? Just look around and see how children’s rights are violated and abused left, right and center. Of course we cannot blame it all on poverty. You cannot tell me that because your father died by car accident you will never travel by car… oh no, that’s not the way of the world.
Dignity and respect are stressed so much in the CRC but unfortunately we are yet to see tangible evidence that we have done enough to enhance this. Take the juvenile justice issue that is quite a burning one in this country. The convention says that every child accused of committing an offence should be treated in a way that promotes the dignity of the child. Did you know that in this country we have only two remand homes? Oh yes… one in Freetown and the other in Bo.
Most times children awaiting trial or convicted are place in the same cells with adults because they have no remand homes to put them. Of course this is just unfair. When we consider all the many housing/structural programs that NACSA has undertaken for so many years one would think that a small thought foe our children should have been made. It is amazing to see the magnificient Markets built along the highways that nobody ever uses it. These are more than white elephants! Call it misplaced priorities to say the least.
One irony of life is that the older one becomes, the more one becomes vulnerable to any upheaval. And who are the main protagonists of the upheavals…it is those who have the energy, and these are the children and youth. So logically if you want a peaceful old age then of course you need to cater to the needs of children and youth.
One big problem that has emerged in our country is that these days we have families actually sponsoring the exploitation of their own children all in the name of winning bread for the family.
Well the family is dead and gone then the reality done on the child at a time that is rather too late.
Yes do not use poverty as an excuse. On the average every sierra Leonean is poor. You know why Dr James Jonah once said that if you put together all the wealth of the rich Sierra Leoneans and distribute evenly, we will all be poor.
So he said and I think he is an honorably respected senior citizen of this country. But please let our poverty spare the children who invariably have to determine the course of our country’s future. By S. Beny SAM