The child, by extension human being from birth until adulthood (age 18), is described to be most vulnerable of human species and has derived a legal provision through international and national conventions by reason of its position to enjoy special rights and privileges from the society. Children’s rights include the right to health, education, family life, play and recreation, an adequate standard of living and to be protected from abuse and harm. Children’s rights cover their developmental and age-appropriate needs that change over time as a child grows up.
However, these rights are left to enforcements by legal oversights, which are exercised when the rights are violated. And if these rights are to go beyond legal exercise, the safety of the child must be put into consideration, which would have to be an all time duty of parents and care providers.
The need to pursue these rights for the safety of the Nigerian child beyond public discourse took the lead in a just concluded school safety summit that pulled together child development experts, school safety professionals, educationists, law enforcement agencies, school owners, teachers and parents who sought to drive home the demand that calls for an all inclusion of Safety as a course of study to be made a part of the school curriculum.
The School Safety Summit organised by a safety organisation, The Safety Chic on Wednesday, May 17, which held in Ikeja, Lagos and themed “Protecting the Child in School” considered as its main discourse the advocacy for inclusion of safety in every subject taught in Nigerian schools to better raise safety consciousness in the country.
Speaking at the summit, Mrs Rhoda Odigboh, a curriculum theorist, who is also coordinator of The Learning Craft, an educational consultancy firm, urged schools to fashion out a modality where safety scenarios are woven into all subjects to “help impart the right knowledge whilst still teaching the original subjects.”
Elaborating on how this could be done, Odigboh said, “I call it an interdisciplinary approach. Write it into every subject that you teach. It’s doable. What you do is that you take every subject and wire in all safety procedures.
“For example, if you want to talk about child abuse, you can easily wire it into Mathematics, English, Science, Health Science and even Health Education.”
She revealed that it had become necessary to weave safety messages into every subject as getting an independent subject for safety has proved unfeasible.
The Convener, Miss Ugochi Obidiegwu popularly known as Safety Chic, said the summit was “a platform to educate parents, teachers, educators and school owners on the loopholes in the school safety system and proffer solutions to bridge the gap.”
She noted that protecting children in school required school owners to invest in safety training, inspection, safety books, safety poster packs, and medical surveillance.
Furthermore, Obidiegwu urged school owners to take advantage of her organisation’s free Train Them Young Initiative (#2TYI) to enable the children increase knowledge of basic safety skills, practice correct responses to different emergency scenarios and enhance knowledge sharing with peers and family.
Also, she harped on the need for schools to equip staff with the appropriate emergency response training to cope with emergency situations.
A school administrator and child development expert, Mrs Ronke Posh Adeniyi advised teachers to constantly upgrade their knowledge to better position themselves to meet the needs of their pupils.
She further advised teachers to refrain from flogging or using abusive language on their pupils as this could harm them psychologically.
Adeniyi, who is the Director of PoshBabiesandKids, a Lagos-based nursery school, said “We need to pay attention to the language we speak to our children. There is power in what you say as a teacher.”
“Can a child that has been abused learn?” she queried.
In an address at the event, the Representative of Area F Police Commander, Ikeja, Sp. Uche Umezurike while lauding the organiser for putting the summit together appealed for collaboration between school stakeholders to achieve the theme of the summit.
Defining child protection as “the protection of the child from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect,” the police chief implored school owners to conduct background checks before employing any staff to avoid exposing school children to harm.
In the same vein, the Lagos State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Tajudeen Balogun, who was represented by Florence Chukwura, a Chief Superintendent of Corps, said parents needed to do more in protecting their school-going children.
“Parents need to do more. Vigilance starts from home. We must keep this in mind as parents and adults,” the corps commandant said.
He urged parents to come up with mutually-agreed signs through which their children could communicate with them when in danger, urging them to set boundaries where their children could go.
Similarly, the Corps Commandant affirmed the need for schools to maintain current school registers to keep track of students who attend or do not attend school on each day.
He equally urged parents to desist from sending unfamiliar persons to pick their children from school as this could pose a security risk to the children and urged schools to religiously maintain records of visitors accessing the school premises during school hours.