By Jennifer Nikoro
Children living with disabilities in Nigeria daily face discrimination of all forms. Some are denied their rights to basic education (especially in private owned Institutions) while others are barred from realizing their rights to healthcare, leisure activities and even survival.
For children with disabilities in Nigeria, educational opportunities remains a major issue in Nigeria.
Daniel is eight years old and crippled; he wishes to attend a decent private owned institution in Nigeria. His mother who is a single parent barely raised his tuition fee from the income of her petty trade. On getting to Daniel’s desired school, she was informed that Daniel cannot be admitted into the school due to his disability. She was further told that they are concerned about the high-profile image of the school to other parent thus Daniel’s disability may cause other parents to withdraw their wards. She was then advised to take Daniel to any government owned institution of her choice.
Aside from high tuition fee, the stigma around disability often drives parents to expedite their children’s entry into public schools (government owned institutions which are plagued by staff shortages, deficiency of learning tools and facilities)while others are being homeschooled. These children are subtly deprived their freedom of association on the basis of discrimination.
Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of disability. It states that “parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in present Convention to each child…without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s…disability…or other status”. (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, Article 2)
Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that a child with mental or physical disabilities is entitled to enjoy a full and decent-life, in conditions that ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.
Section 17 (1) of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 states that a person with disability shall have an unfettered right to education without discrimination or segregation of any form.
Aside deprivation of Right to education, children with disabilities have been lured and forced into street begging. The menace of Street begging is found more among persons living with physical disabilities including Children. Many spend their youthful age soliciting for alms.
Street begging has been criminalized in Nigeria by the provisions of Section 16 (1) and (2) of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 which states:
(1) A person shall not –
- employ or use a person with disability in begging
- Parade a person with disability with the intention of soliciting for alms
- Use the condition of disability as a guise for begging in public
(2) Any person who contravenes such section shall be liable to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000.00 ) or six months imprisonment or both.
The way forward is a sustainable life for persons living with disabilities especially children. Government should pay attention to their needs and provide realistic ways to cater for them rather than criminalizing the act of street begging which may be for some the only source of income their family can generate.
Jennifer Nikoro is a legal practitioner based in Lagos State. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn @Oghenewaire Jennifer Nikoro