The 2015 celebration of the day of the African Child organised by the The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) may have come and gone, but the consciousness the sensitisation had aroused in the rural communities would subsist for a long time.
With the theme, “Accelerating Our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”, school children of Akwa Ibom State origin from Nsit Atai Local Government Area were sensitised on the importance of education and their rights as children to resist all forms of pressure and abuses from individuals and the community.
The children who listened with rapt attention to facilitators were told of the dangers of primitive traditions and practices perpetrated by parents.
Many of such practices, the speakers said have in the past pushed many innocent children of school age into early marriages in the face of the sad consequences such early exposure poses to the lives of the unsuspecting and vulnerable youths.
According to participants and guests present at the event, the 2015 theme described as timely exposed the children to the dangers associated with such unfavourable traditional practices to include denial of rights to life, good health, education, dignity, abrupt end to academic learning, maternal mortality, Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), a subtype of Female Urogenital Fistula (UGF) condition and malnutrition, all traced to early marriages.
Delivering his address in the mother tongue, the keynote speaker and General Manager of Akwa Ibom Water and Sanitation Agency, Mr. Effiong Essien thoroughly explained the ills of early marriage, contending that the notion of early marriage as a sign of love held by parents was deceitful.
He dismissed the notion of short attention span by school pupils as a proven wrong assumption.
Essien explained that lack of basic education hinders a child’s ability to demand for his or her right, noting that such poorly founded marriages could also affect the physical and psychological wellbeing of children forced into early marriages to bring forth healthy and well nurtured children.
Advocating for a better welfare for children, especially in the areas of quality education, sexual abuse and the need to keep the school environment clean, he, however, encouraged the girl child to rise against any attempt to be pushed into early marriage even by their parents.
“We must double effort to protect our girl child if the nation is to attain the millennium development goals. Untimely marriage of a girl child is wrong because a girl needs time to mature and understand herself so as to be able to shoulder family responsibilities and bear responsible children”.
Acting Director General of Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), Mrs Elsie Udofia, represented by James Edet, advised the children to take advantage of the frèe and compulsory education policy of the state, contending that this would enhance their status in life.
The children were drawn from six surrounding schools that include: Methodist School, Ikot Akpabio; St Pius Primary school, Ikot Itie Udung; and Government School Ikot Edebe among others that participated in an art competition designed to portray the negative consequences of lack of potable water in schools and communities.
The high point of the occasion was a demonstration of proper hand washing, benefits and processes by Mrs. Mary Essien of the State Ministry of Health to the students.
Source: Daily Independent