Childrens’ rights in a developing world (2)
TECHNOLOGY AS A SUBSTITUTE
Wikipedia defines technology to mean; Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The word technology comes from Greek ôå÷íïëïãßá (technología); from ôÝ÷íç (téchnç), meaning “art, skill, craft”, and -ëïãßá (-logía), meaning “study of-”. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.
As stated earlier Technology has contributed immensely to the development of mankind. In medieval times before the invention of the camera, image capture was regarded as witchcraft or sorcery and anyone suspected of such was bound to be burned at the Stake. However, after the camera came inventions such as Television, Cinema, Video games, computers, the Internet and lately social media such as Facebook and Twitter. To a large extent these Technological inventions and advancements have had a profound effect on the welfare of the Child. Indeed many children have seen in Technology an appropriate substitute for the attention of their Parents which as stated earlier is lacking in these modern times.
It is common nowadays to find children who from a very tender age have been introduced to Computers and other technological inventions. In some cases Children become so enmeshed in the world of computers that they fail to develop the interpersonal skills which they require in day to day life to relate with family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Yet development of social skills is a sine qua non to social development. This phenomenon has been identified as the leading cause of youth delinquency in most societies. The United Kingdom in particular has experienced an upswing in crime related to teenage gang activity. Some years back a young Nigerian immigrant became a victim of this violence when he was stabbed to death by four young gang members.
In the United States of America, things are not much better. Gang violence is ever on the increase. Innocent lives are lost daily to gang related activity. In one sickening instance a pupil decided to try out his shooting skills which he had garnered on computer games on real human targets and using real weapons. Many of the perpetrators of these crimes come from dysfunctional families. It is therefore safe to assume that they were denied the rights of love, care and attention which their Parents were obliged to give to them.
In Nigeria the situation is not too dissimilar. Cultism is a now a menace with which many institutions of learning now grapple. Numerous lives have been lost to cult violence across the country. The most notable incident is perhaps the 10th of July 1999 killing of five students by suspected cultist at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Osun State. It is unimaginable that the perpetrators of that crime received in childhood the duties expected from their parents.
The technology available today has made a wealth of knowledge available to students, which offers great potential for the speed and style of learning. Information is presented in so many ways that any type learner, whether gifted or disabled, can find and use the necessary material. This fact relates not only to the Internet, but to all the many technological improvements in learning, from smart boards to handheld dictionaries.
Education is no longer the elitist privilege it once was. The information on the Internet is there for all who have access, without discrimination. People of all social strata are able to use technological advances.
However with this increased access to knowledge also comes a probable loss of communication skills and interactive abilities between students and teacher, and students to peers. These skills are not as necessary in a classroom of computers, where individuality is a component of learning and is encouraged. Aside from learning, conflict resolution and socialization used to be two prominent reasons children came to school. The emphasis now has shifted away from these areas.
While general access is not denied, some children may not be exposed to computers and other technology because of socio-economic status. A child may live in a home without a computer, and chances are he will attend a poor school with limited numbers of or no computers available. A student may get to use a computer for a short time, or only as a once-a-week activity instead of a regular class period. This puts these children at a disadvantage in learning technological functions.
GLOBAL EFFORT ON THE RIGHTS AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN
In recognition of the need for the protection of Children, there has been a global effort to put in place measures and policies in that regard. Most of these efforts were spearheaded by individuals such as Eglantyne Jebb who in 1923 drafted the the first Declarations of the Rights of the Child. These were:
1. The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
2. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.
3. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
4. The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
5. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
These ideas were adopted by the International Save the Children Union, in Geneva, on 23 February 1923 and endorsed by the League of Nations General Assembly on 26 November 1924 as the World Child Welfare Charter. However, these proclamations were not enforceable by international law, but rather only guidelines for countries to follow 
On 20 November 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a much expanded version as its own Declaration of the Rights of the Child during the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adding ten principles in place of the original five. This date has been adopted as the Universal Children’s Day.
On the 20th of November 1989 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Charter. On September 2, 1990 it became international law. With one notable exception the US refused to sign up to Charter. The Convention consists of 54 articles that address the basic human rights children everywhere are entitled too: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.
One key player in the advancement of the cause of Children is the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). It is a United Nations Programme headquartered in New York City, and provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.
UNICEF was created by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II. In 1954, UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations System. It relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Most of UNICEF’s work is in the field, with staff in over 390 countries and territories. More than 200 country offices carry out UNICEF’s mission through a program developed with host governments. Seventeen regional offices provide technical assistance to country offices as needed.
VISION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
The mission and vision of the UNICEF as stated is the protection of the rights of Children. This mission is aptly captured in a Press Summary in which it stated as follows:
“An urgent call to leadership
As the 21st century begins, children and women are the overwhelming majority of the people in the world who live in poverty, who are killed and maimed in conflicts and who are most vulnerable to infection with HIV/AIDS. Their rights, as set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, are violated every day in countless ways.
Government bodies and civil groups, organizations of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations, philanthropies and responsible corporate citizens - as well as children and adolescents themselves - have formed alliances to redress these wrongs.
That Children must be protected cannot be overemphasized. Over the years Children have been abused and dehumanized. In Africa Children have even been conscripted as Child Soldiers by rebel movements in many countries.
Happily many Governments including that of Nigeria have taken steps to enact Laws designed to protect Children. An example of such is the Law against Trafficking in Persons which prohibits the use of Children as workers. This has largely curtailed the trafficking in children across West Africa. But as UNICEF noted there is still much to be done. It is hoped that Leaders in the developed world and particularly in our country will in the words of UNICEF, “reaffirm their commitment to children” and thereby realize “a new world within a single generation: a shared vision of children and women - indeed of humankind - freed from poverty and discrimination, freed from violence and disease”.
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