A 17-year-old Nigerian student, Nnemdi Ozoemena, has emerged the runner-up in the senior category of the 2019 Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.
Mr Blackson Bayewumi, Country Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Nigeria and Chairman Nigeria Conversation, said this in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday.
Bayewumi said that the Federal Ministry of Education had on March 11, inaugurated the competition in Abuja on behalf of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Nigeria during commemoration of the Commonwealth Day.
According to him, the Royal Commonwealth Society in Nigeria inaugurated the Essay Competition in Lagos on Feb. 20, 2019 and that the competition was held all over the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth.
“Ozoemena emerged runner-up courtesy of her literary piece chosen from more than 11,000 entries from across the five regions of the Commonwealth.
“She wrote about “Hello” a tale of two young people struggling with issues in their society and who do not feel truly appreciated for whom they are told through direct messages on Twitter.
“From different countries, backgrounds they find common ground and become friends; the One Final Panel Judge described the piece as ‘shop window of how youth are speaking to each other today’.
“Ozoemena will be invited to attend an Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace where the Duchess of Cornwall will present them with their certificates on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen,” he said.
Bayewumi said that Ozoemena came closely behind a 15-year-old Canadian, Beached Wang, in the senior category.
He added that Veronica Shen, 13, from Singapore emerged winner in the junior category while 12-year-old Ghanaian, Elise Jensen, emerged runner-up.
He, however, said that the senior category was for people between the ages of 14 years and 18 years, while the junior category was for those who were 13 years old and below.
Bayewumi said that notable authors would read extracts from the winning pieces at the ceremony as part of a week of cultural and educational activities in London, UK.
He explained that the 2019 competition titled “Connected Commonwealth” required applications on how the contestants could use cultural, technological, and environmental connections for positive change across the Commonwealth.
Topics for the competition provided room for young people to write on ways that Commonwealth potentials could be used to strengthen the vast and varied links between citizens.
“It is important to conclude that Nigerian young people have the competence, capacities, capabilities, and intelligence to compete globally and excel if given the opportunity and the right environment.
“While few Nigerian youths indulge themselves in crime, there are millions others making the nation proud in academics, sports, science and technology, entertainment, and other dignifying human endeavours,” he said.
He said that a pan-Commonwealth body consisting of more than 100 volunteer judges across 40 different countries assessed the entries for the competition.
Bayewumi also said that the judges commented on the skill and talent shown by any of the young writers, with entries described as ‘massively memorable’ and ‘very powerful’.
The competition is the oldest international schools’ writing competition organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society founded in 1868, as network of individuals and organisations to improve prospects of Commonwealth citizens across the world.
The society seeks to promote Commonwealth societal values through youth empowerment, education and advocacy. (NAN)
UNICEF Reveals 226,000 Grave Violations Against Children
By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja.
Between 2005 and 2020, the United Nations verified over 266,000 grave violations against children committed by parties to conflict in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America,
According to UNICEF, this figure is a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred, as access and security constraints, among others, and the shame, pain, and fear that child and family survivors suffer often hamper the reporting, documentation and verification of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.
West and Central Africa is the region with the second highest number of verified violations since 2005 with more than 67,000 verified grave violations, accounting for a quarter of all violations globally. In the Central Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), conflict and insecurity have been major drivers of population displacement, which has put children further at risk of grave violations.In these three countries, the number of verified grave violations increased by 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the last quarter of 2021. Hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed in recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali.
UNICEF emphasized that 25 years of children and armed conflict:Taking action to protect children in war – found that between 2005 and 2020 in West and Central Africa more than 7,600 children have been verified as killed or maimed in situations of armed conflict; over 42,000 children have been verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict; at least 4,800 children have been verified as abducted by parties to conflict; parties to conflict have raped, forcibly married, sexually exploited, and committed other grave forms of sexual violence against at least 8,000 children.
The United Nations verified more than 2,500 incidents of attacks against schools and hospitals and verified no fewer than 1,900 incidents of denial of humanitarian access for children since 2005 in West and Central Africa.
In Nigeria there were 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children. These violations mainly occurred in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States and were attributed to ISWAP and other armed groups. This is a 56 per cent increase in the number of grave violations against children (208) verified in 2020.
In most conflict areas in the West and Central Africa region, civilians continue to be targeted. This includes the deliberate targeting of frontline humanitarian workers who are finding it more difficult to deliver life-saving services and supplies to children in large parts of the Central Sahel and other conflict-affected areas of the region.
“Behind each of the violations detailed in the report is a child, his or her family and members of a community whose lives are torn apart, sometimes forever. We cannot remain indifferent and silent. The killing, abduction, and rape of girls and boys are horrific crimes. The increase in verified grave violations in the Central Sahel over the last quarter and their devastating impact on the wellbeing of children shows the need and importance of continuing our efforts to provide care to the victims and advocate for their immediate end. Attacks on civilians including children must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
Based on sixteen years of data from the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the report illustrates the impact that armed conflicts have had on children, by presenting trends of grave violations across the world and over time. The report examines how information on the documented patterns of grave violations is being used to respond to children’s needs and how engagement with parties to conflict – State and non-State actors alike enables ending and preventing grave violations.
The annual number of verified violations in the world has gradually increased since 2005, surpassing 20,000 in a year for the first time in 2014 and reaching 26,425 in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, the daily global average of verified grave violations stood at an alarming 71 violations. The elevated number of violations observed in recent years demonstrates the dramatic impact that armed conflict and increasingly complex and protracted protection crises have on children.
The report notes that many children suffer from more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability. For example, abduction is often combined with or leads to other violations, particularly recruitment and use and sexual violence. Children especially girls who have been abducted and/or associated with parties to conflict are exposed to elevated risks of sexual violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.
The report found that grave violations against children were committed by States and non-State actors alike underscoring the importance of engagement with all parties to conflict, to meaningfully end and prevent violations against children.
In order to bolster accountability, parties to conflict listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict develop and implement Action Plans with specific, concrete, and time-bound actions to establish sustainable measures to protect children from the impact of conflict. Between 2005 and 2021, a total of 16 Action Plans have been signed by parties to conflict in 6 conflict situations.
14 Action Plans were signed with non-State actors, with the remaining 2 were signed with State actors. The report lays out several examples highlighting the critical value and impact of Action Plans in bringing about positive change for children, both in the immediate and long terms, as well as outlining challenges and obstacles.
The ever-growing number of armed non-State actors, the development and employment of new means and methods of warfare, the use of improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, are just some of the many factors contributing to the creation of unprecedented challenges for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.
It is important to note that the increase in verified violations over time also underscores the increasing strength of the monitoring and reporting mechanism over the years. The development of guidance on monitoring and reporting, the training and capacity building of UN and its partners’ staff on documenting grave violations, and the awareness raising of families and communities on the protection risks for children, have all contributed to strengthen the mechanism and enabled it to collect increased information on grave violations against children.
Whilst the overall ability of the United Nations to document and verify incidents of grave violations has increased over time, it has fluctuated from one year to another, from one situation to another, and from one violation to another. In this regard, and based on all of the above, direct comparisons between situations, years, or violations should be undertaken with caution.
“Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across West and Central Africa. The situation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and multi-country emergencies, including crises in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin region, are having devastating consequences on children and communities. Beyond the consequences for the victims, grave violations of children’s rights are often accompanied by massive population displacements that increase the vulnerability of thousands of people and expose more children to other risks of violence,” said Ms. Poirier.
The report recommendations, based on the evidence and analysis presented, aim to mobilize all concerned stakeholders, including parties to conflict, States, and the UN Security Council, to effectively and sustainably protect children and to accelerate action at local, national, regional, and global levels.
In addition to calling on parties to conflict, and states, to abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, the report includes recommendations on how to better provide adequate care and response services to children affected by conflict,ways to improve data disaggregation and analysis for better response and prevention,how to support Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs) to accelerate action, and improve CTFMR engagement with governments and ways to better engage with parties to conflict to develop Action Plans and sustainably protect children.
‘Removing History from School Curriculum was one of OBJ’s biggest Errors’ – Prof Ukase
From Ibraheem Hamza Muhammad & Idris Umar
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was misled to cancel the study of History and International Studies from school curriculum in Nigeria during his administration as Executive president.
A Professor of History and International Studies with Kogi State University, Anyingba, Professor Patrick Ukase said at the 5th anniversary roundtable of Daily Asset Newspaper in Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja with the theme: The Media, National Economy, Politics and 2023 Elections, that the presidential order at that time was ill conceived and ill motivated to a developing country with rich and diverse History.
According to him, ” Historians, academics and concerned Nigerians were really disburbed when the presidential order was announced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that History was cancelled from the curriculum of Nigerian schools.
” Historical Society of Nigerian and many stakeholders fought the unfortunate presidential order by stating that if the younger generation didn’t know the History of the pre and post independence struggle, they wouldn’t learn, cherish, tolerate and strive towards moving the country forward.
” I once told an Engineer that History is just like the rearview mirror that guides motorists to drive safely and without it, driving would be fatal” He said.
Professor Patrick Ukase enjoins policy makers to always consider and adopt issues to do with national interest without prejudice to avoid the embarrassment that followed the cancellation and later reintroduction of History into Nigeria’s school curriculum.
NUT Threatens Strike Over Sack of 2,357 Kaduna Teachers
The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has rejected the recent sack of 2,357 of its members in Kaduna State.
The Union has therefore said it will embark on a nationwide strike should the Kaduna State government refuse to reverse the decision.
It would be recalled that the teachers in Kaduna state, including its National President, Comrade Audu Titus Amba were sacked by the Kaduna State government for failing a purported competency test.
But addressing neewsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, the Deputy President of NUT, Dr Kelvin Nwankwo said its President, Amba did not fail test as announced by the state government and therefore remains its national president.
The Union also said the action of Governor Nasiru El-Rufai is clearly to intimidate the NUT President and embarrass the Teachers in Nigeria, and accused the governor of using the tactics not to pay owed salaries.
The NUT NEC urged Kaduna State government to rather embark on continuous Teacher Training Programme, which would at the end of the day improve knowledge and service delivery by Teachers in the Public Schools of Kaduna State as obtains in other professions such as Nursing, Medicine and Law.
“The very concept of competency test is an aberration and absurd having regards to the fact that the teachers in Kaduna State have prior to their recruitment in the State Public Service attended schools and institutions statutorily saddled with the responsibility of Teacher education and these institutions have certified them to be competent, fit and proper to be Teachers.
“In addition, the selfsame Kaduna State Government had subjected the teachers to scrutiny and test to ensure their suitability or otherwise for employment as Teachers before they were recruited by it.
“It is in the context of the above that the whole concept of a competency test which is only peculiar to Kaduna State is akin to a cocktail of absurdities and leaves a sour taste in the mouth, thereby validating the position of NUT that the intentions of the Kaduna State Government on this issue is everything but altruistic.”
Nwankwo further said Kaduna State is the second most indebted State in Nigeria and the State Government is on a free roller coaster move to satisfy the conditionalities handed down to it by its creditors, which normally includes downsizing of the public service without even the remotest regards to our peculiar circumstances.
“The whole concept of competency test was designed by the Kaduna State Government to achieve its inglorious aim of casualization of the teaching profession in Kaduna State.
“Otherwise, how else can one attempt a rationalization of the fact that the selfsame Kaduna State Government in the year 2018 dismissed/retired in one swoop 21,780 teachers purportedly for not passing its unilaterally and arbitrarily administered competency test and purportedly in replacement thereof recruited about 20,000 new teachers, who according to it were subjected to vigorous test and confirmed to be competent before they were recruited into the Kaduna State Public Service.
“In accordance with the Kaduna State Public/Civil Service Rules, these purported 20,000 Teachers were employed on a temporary basis and placed on a ONE YEAR probationary period.
“Their appointments were to be made permanent and pensionable after the one year probationary period. However, rather regrettably five years down the line, these teachers are still under temporary appointment with the result that the Kaduna State Government can whimsically and shamelessly ask them to leave the public service without any terminal related benefits.
These selfsame 20,000 constitute the bulk of the 2,357 teachers, who are said not to have passed the latest in the series of competency test in Kaduna State,” he said.
The NUT scribe added that the manifest intention of the Kaduna State Government is to prey on the rather unfortunate existing non employment status of our teeming school leavers by recruiting them as teachers only to subsequently subject them to the raw deal it subjected the purported 20,000 teachers, thereby achieving its aim of casualization of the teaching profession in Kaduna State.
The Union also said the case of its dear President, Amba clearly establishes the fact that the whole concept of competency test in Kaduna State is arbitrary and lacking in certainty.
“He was not dismissed then for failure to write the competency test. The question that readily agitates the mind in the circumstance is, what has changed in 2021/2022?
“It is also rather very sad and curious that the dismissal letter relative to the NUT President was in the Public domain via the social media even when it has not been served on him.
“The intention clearly is to intimidate the NUT President and embarrass the Teachers in Nigeria. This like other anti labour and people policies of the Kaduna State Government has failed on arrival. We got news for His Excellency Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai and his co-travelers to wit:- power is transient,” the union stated.
NUT therefore, reaffirmed its commitment to stand with its revered President Comrade Audu Titus Amba and all the teachers in Kaduna State, who have fallen victim of the anti labour policies in Kaduna State and which policies have defied all logic and lacking in milk of human kindness.
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