Nigerians mark sombre Children’s Day with prayers for Chibok girls
Today is Children’s Day in Nigeria. But there is little fanfare and no appetite for celebration, with more than 270 kidnapped schoolgirls still being held by Boko Haram.
Prayers are being said in churches across the country and several states have cancelled their usual celebrations.
Bring Back Our Girls campaigners have asked people around the world to wear red and think of the missing Chibok students.
Former education minister Dr Oby Ezekwesili, a leader of the campaign, said: “Children’s Day is supposed to be a day set aside to celebrate the younger generation – a generation which is terribly endangered in Nigeria due to the activities of terrorists.
“In the north-east, children have been killed and abducted and we must do what we can to ensure that this threat against them is decisively tackled and permanently eliminated.”
Campaigners form a giant image with cards to get their message across
Children and Youth Day marks 43 days since the girls were abducted from their school at Chibok in Borno state.
The Nigerian military said yesterday it knows where the students are being held but won’t risk a rescue operation.
Borno state has cancelled its usual celebrations. And the governor of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, said Children’s Day activities today would be replaced by prayers.
He added: “Our children will pray for Nigeria, they will pray for their colleagues who have been kidnapped and they will pray that our children should be encouraged to be educated rather than be discouraged from being educated.”
UNICEF’s Nigerian representative Jean Gough said there was need to create a protective environment for all children to ensure a bright future.
Staff at UN Women Nigeria office staff Picture: UN Women
She said that “as we celebrate another Children’s Day, one area where our collective responsibility is urgently required is the protection of our children, the collective includes the family, community, society and the state.
“Every day in the media, we hear of one form of abuse or the other against children, rape of underage children, child trafficking and so on.
“Let us all work together collectively to ensure that our children are protected against harm so they can grow into productive adults who will contribute to the development of Nigeria in future.”
Staff from UN Women and partner organisations at offices around the world wore red to show solidarity with the abducted girls.
A Safe Schools Initiative has been set up in Nigeria to help make schools more secure. The government and international aid agencies will together to protect education from attack and Gordon Brown, the United Nations Sepcial Envoy for Education, has been asked by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to play a lead role in the initiative.
Children’s Day is a special event to honour and protect children around the world. It was created in 1954 to protect children from long working hours and dangerous situation in the workplace as well as give every children the chance to get an education.
While Nigeria marks Children’s Day on May 27, many African countries and others around the world hold their celebrations on June 1. Other upcoming Children’s Day events include the United States on June 8.