THE RECENT spate of child abuse in the country is a sad reminder of the abysmal state of societal disregard and disrespect for the rights of the Nigerian child. It is sad to observe that the Nigerian child is not safe as he is exposed to danger, sexual abuse, exploitation, stigmatization, domestic abuse and lots more. Unfortunately, these children are abused by their parents and family members, who are meant to be the first line of protection for them. Child abuse is the physical, mental or sexual assault of a child by the parents or any other adult. It is the violation of the right of the child. Recently, there has been a rise in the degree of mental and physical abuse of children. A father with the connivance of his wife allegedly chained his 9 year-old son in a room for more than a month, for allegedly stealing meat from the family’s pot of soup. The boy was left to starve without food or water; by the time he was discovered by government officials he had become extremely weak. Similarly, another father allegedly beat his 13 year-old son and in the process, ruptured his intestine. The medical report shows that the boy suffered generalized body pains with abdominal swelling and hyperemia, following the beating. A comprehensive assessment of the abuse with the aid of abdominal ultrasound scan revealed free peritoneal fluid ascites and punctured
viscus. These are injuries medically proven to be life threatening, ironically inflicted by a father on his son. In the same vein, the private part of an 11 year-old girl was burnt with hot pressing iron by her mother for coming home late from school, in Ikorodu area of Lagos. These are signs of a dysfunctional society where homes are no longer a safe haven of love, protection and care.  It appears that people can no longer differentiate between punishment, correction and total disregard for a child’s right. It is sad, to note that the rate of these forms of abuse is increasing on a daily basis with new cases blazing the front pages of newspapers every day.  Corporal punishment, which is described as “punishment of a physical nature such as canning”, is another form of child abuse that is rampant in our society. Though the term mainly relates to children being punished at school, it also refers to children being punished at home. It is necessary to draw a line between abuse and corporal punishment. Thousands of children are abused daily under the guise of punishment. Some children have lost their lives in the process while some have been maimed for life. Any punishment or correction that threatens the life, health or wellbeing of a child is an abuse. These forms of punishments are unacceptable, illegal and punishable under the law. Punishment that inflicts pain, emotional and mental torture as well as physical abuse is criminal. Hence, it is pertinent to observe that there are no strong guidelines or laid down policies, regarding corporal punishment and children,
like it is done in developed countries, thus, the flagrant abuse of children in African traditional societies. It is also important to note that this form of abuse has become widespread in schools, primary and secondary schools especially. It is, indeed, disheartening, because it is happening in an informed environment where it is believed that, as educationists, they should know better. A situation where a child was slapped several times by different teachers in the spate of minutes for an altercation with other students is abnormal. To compound the case, the child was reportedly thoroughly beaten up by teachers with marks all over her body. Often, teachers don’t only violate pupils’ right but also encourage senior students to prey on younger and weaker students, victimizing them in the process, thereby building and encouraging the culture of violence as senior students are empowered to get physical and discipline their junior ones by engaging in corporal punishment. A school is a formal learning environment where manners, etiquette, social and interpersonal relationship skills are learnt and built hence students should be taught these skills and it should begin with teachers who are role models.  But, it is unfortunate to observe that some teachers are not really educationists, as they know quite a little about child psychology and the principles of teaching and learning since they branched into the teaching line just to make ends meet. These weird and vindictive punishments meted out by parents, guardians and teacherson children are outrageous and need urgent attention by all tiers of governments, religious organizations, child rights activists and other stakeholders.  It has been argued that hitting at children in the bid to correct them is counterproductive in the long run as such punishments do not have to be physical before they become correctional. The Child Rights Acts clearly forbids battery, physical assault and abuse in any form. According to available data, as of 2008, corporal punishment has been banned in 24 countries. This is an indication that, this form of approach to child training is on the decline, and not in sync with modern day realities, with more countries debating whether to ban corporal punishment. The Lagos State government in its effort to stem the tide of this type of abuse recently placed a ban on beating and any form of corporal punishment in schools in the state. To entrench respect for the rights of the Nigerian child in the consciousness of society and promote the culture of patience and tolerance for children, government should intensify efforts to ensure that policies on child rights protection are implemented. Religious institutions should also assist government by building a strong foundation for the protection of the rights of children in homes and the society through their programmes and activities.

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