16.03.2003 Feature Article

A Chronic Social Canker: Child Abuse

By Press
A Chronic Social Canker: Child Abuse
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Every child is so precious to every state and as such his/her welfare should be of prime importance.

This is because the children of today are the future leaders and the greatest assets of the nation.

However, whether a child may be an asset or liability to a nation depends on how he or she is trained from childhood.

The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child describes the child as every human being below the age of 18 years.

The Convention on the child upholds the welfare of the child and enjoins member states to protect the interests of children in all spheres of life.

The Convention requires member states to take a critical view of all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities, legislative bodies, or their parents and families.

In spite of the above, the abuse of the rights of the child is so pervasive in our society that it leaves much to be desired.

Though parents have the right to decide for their children, some decisions of parents in this country are not in the best interest of the children and two glaring instances of child abuse are very common in the country and thus need to be examined.

Neglect of the education of children:

It is quite disheartening to see children of school-going age engaged as working maidservants or garden boys. Ironically, it is normally the families of either the well educated or the well-to-do that these unfortunate children work for.

Some of these children are sometimes, subjected to all sorts of inhuman and degrading treatment by their so-called masters or mistresses they serve. In some cases teenagers are forced to work or do house chores from 6 a.m. till 11 p.m.

Some maidservants are not allowed to attend churches or mosque thereby, infringing on their rights to commune with their Creator.

Another form of child abuse is the child's engagement to work to support the house budget.

Children are always seen selling especially iced water, sweets, and others to supplement the family's income, whilst some of them do not attend school at all and others undertake petty trading after classes deep into the night.

In either case, the development of the child is at stake.

The government's fee-free compulsory basic education programme is very laudable since it has the inherent characteristic of ensuring the educational development of children.

The programme is, however, likely to be undermined by instances of child abuse including those mentioned above.

Parents, society and the government must seriously tackle child abuse as a social problem.

All the three elements, namely the family, society and government are affected when a child "decays" and the family is plunged into abysmal poverty.

The society will be threatened by theft, prostitution and other anti social practices whilst the government struggles to contain the situation to ensure a vibrant economy.

The child is the government's best asset and the population is likely to be rendered ineffective in many endeavours as a result of low level of education.

In view of the above, the society must recognise the rights of the child and protect him or her from economic exploitation and any work that is likely to be hazardous or will interfere with the child's education or to be harmful to his or her health or socio-economic development.

The society must therefore take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the well being of the child.

To this end, the society or district assemblies in particular should provide appropriate penalties or sanctions to protect the interest of the child.

The district assemblies can make by-laws to ensure that only children who have completed the basic education should be allowed to engage in petty trading such as selling of iced water, among others.

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