Child Rights Abuse, A Bleak Future For Africa?

“African children have the worst life chances in the world. And the gab between the survival rates, the education and the development of Africa's children and the children of other continents is increasing”.

Source-Salim Ahmed Salim- Former Secretary General of the African Union

A careful assessment and evaluation of children in the Western world reveals a vast difference in the nurturing process applied to them compared to our very own African children.

Western children are physically, verbally, emotionally and psychologically shown more affection from parents, family and society in general, leading them to be seen as an asset to society; a strong source of untapped potential ready to be nurtured and filled with all the right elements of skills, training, education, etc building each individual child to blossom fully into their rightful sector in which their talents and skills lie.

Also, there are systems strategically set up to make society and the family unit child-friendly, always finding new ways to unleash the infinite potential of the next generation.

The children are seen as real investments and assets to country on a national and international level, to society in general, and primarily to the family unit.

They are seen as the torch bearers to pass on the skills and expertise learnt from the older generation, with the emphasis on the children being the people to bring about an evolution of change for the betterment of society through all sectors, by developing and advancing all that's been passed on to them to contribute to a better life in general for all around them, thus benefiting all of society.

The western culture has laws put in place to protect and cater for children which must be implemented. When these laws are not fully implemented, the offending individual or group is held accountable for their actions on inactions. For Example, a full-blown court case, which could end up in a prison sentence, naming and shaming of offenders in the various media, heavy fine, etc.

Furthermore, the Western culture is more open, in terms of relating to one another and communion with fellow human beings. This allows the children to be more expressive in their thoughts, feelings and emotions leading to a more free-thinking and innovative personality type, not scared to challenge the status-quo and hold firmly to their world views and principles, etc without compromising to a group thinking attitude.

In general, this brings about a more conducive atmosphere to freely exchange ideas and challenge different ways of thinking which naturally profits individual institutions bringing about vast wealth and growth for such societies.

The African child on the other hand lacks full physical, verbal and emotional affection from parents, families and society in general.

For Example, When a child falls because she slipped, a typical African parent may chastise the child for crying, with the notion that he/she is making noise. Sometimes, parents even beat up such children and society sees nothing wrong with it.

Nonetheless, it must be said that the culture in African countries least favor children in terms of systems strategically put in place to protect, guide and nurture them.

More importantly these laws and systems are not implemented and no one seems ever to be held accountable, leaving the offending bodies to feel they can get away with anything they want when children's rights come into discussion.

The African society in general feels children's rights are not important and are indifferent to any such laws.

For example, some parents go overboard abusing children in the name of enforcing discipline. Some parents deny their children food for days as punishment for offences committed.

For instance, most children in Africa are enslaved and treated like servants. This is usually administered with the thinking that children are there to help the adults, and they are seen more as the property of the parents to do whatever they want with them.

That is why it is not surprising to find a mother sell her 8 year old daughter to a rich family so the child can be used as a servant, even though they are not oblivious to the fact that, the child will become a victim of some form of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by his/her “masters”.

So if such parents are viewing their property, i.e. their children to be of no worth, they most definitely will not be seen as an asset to society and to anyone else for that matter and worse still the 'property' (the child) will feel unwanted and worthless. So through this cycle, we dehumanize, and cheapen our own 'property' that should in fact be assets that we nurture fully with love and care, like the brand new '4x4' range rover people buy for themselves that has so much care and love shown to it.

Our culture is steeped in the tradition of the elder always being right – never challenging authority for fear of consequences thus parents, consciously or subconsciously; subtly instill fear into children with the objective of controlling them.

This leads to the child being repressed emotionally, leading to timidity, lack of communication, slow emotional growth etc.

As a society, we individually need to come together with a collective effort to remove this invisible attitude of indifference towards the African child and move to a mindset of first going back to basics and offering physical, emotional, psychological affection and love towards our newly born straight from day one.

There is no shame or embarrassment in verbally saying 'I love you' to your child. There is no shame or embarrassment in physically hugging your child that you brought into this world. There is no shame or embarrassment in hugging them when they are crying and comforting them is not weakness, but rather strength.

Let us all not jeopardize the lives of our future leaders not just in the sense of political, but leaders in every field - big or small, who can hold their head up high and not only say, but demonstrate to society and to the rest of the world, that they are fully rounded in their emotional and psychological development. Because to fully say and demonstrate that would mean, to start with fully accepting responsibility, and ready to be held accountable as a human being for all your thoughts and your actions.

Let us do more to support the African child and help them realize their dreams of becoming who they want to be in future.

Appealing to the conscience of parents not to abuse the rights of their children is in the right direction. However, so long as the state has failed to provide social protection systems, some recalcitrant parents would continue to abuse their children.

For example, some parents go to the extent of immersing the hand of their children in boiling oil for stealing fish from soup. This is a criminal offence and must be treated as such. However, if such a parent is sentenced to jail and the state has no shelter and well structured system to cater for the victim, the child may find him / herself worse off and may even beg for alms or engage in social vices to survive.

It is therefore incumbent on the government to establish structures that can take care of victims of abuse including their education to the highest level.

Some parents in advanced countries do abuse the rights of their children, but when the state intervenes, such children receive the best of support from the state to become better citizens in the future.

African countries have to take the step and invest in their children. We can only achieve positive growth and development with the right attitude. It starts with you.