The Advocacy programme with the African Faith and Justice Network Nigeria (AFJNN) took place in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria from 17th to 23rd of June, 2018. The five sisters from different congregations who were present at the event planned and mapped out activities for the one week advocacy visits to different stakeholders in the State on human trafficking, child abuse/neglect and capacity building.
These problems are to be found across the nation but Edo State was chosen due to the high number of persons being trafficked from the State. The stakeholders in Benin City visited were the Archbishop, Augustine Obiora Akubueze, Idia College, St. Maria Goretti Girls Junior Secondary School, Edo State Governor’s Office and the State Governor’s Wife Office, Edo State Ministry of Youth and Special Duties, Edo State Ministry of Education, and the State Security Service.
In Idia College the Principal for the Senior College, the Principal for the Idia Junior College asked the group to give input on human trafficking, child safeguarding/abuse and capacity building to about 90 teachers in both the junior and secondary schools. During the input we explored the entire avenue about the need to safeguard and protect children and vulnerable persons, its implication to a child’s development and the legal implications regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable persons.
The schools are overcrowded with too few teachers to actually manage the classes. In some instances it was 1:120 students per class. Obviously learning in such school environment is very difficult.
The Edo State Ministry of Youth and Special Duties Commissioner informed us that the State has passed Anti-Human trafficking Laws. This implies that the State can now make arrests, persecute and convict. Two persons have been convicted since the law was passed.
Our advocacy visit to the Edo State Ministry of Education Commissioner was fruitful as we represented the poor conditions of the government public schools. The poor learning environment that the children have to contend with, child abuse/neglect, human trafficking, illegal migrations, and the underemployment of the teachers to teach in the government public schools with such large population. It was pointed that the government provision of free education has not necessarily provided quality education. The children are virtually studying under conditions completely unsuitable for learning and these has resulted in poor academic performances. The group emphasised the need to make provisions for a conducive learning environment for the children and their right to quality and free education.
Our advocacy visits were equally extended to the Edo State Security Service and Governor’s office, although we did not get to meet the Director General of the State Security Service during the visit nor the Governor. We left information about the need to ensure that the perpetrators of human trafficking are identified and prosecuted. We met the Governor’s personal adviser who informed us he was not in the State at that time and the same information was given about the Governor’s wife, from her security people.
In conclusion, the week of advocacy visits to Benin City will hopefully continue to have a positive and lasting impression on the minds of the people. Some of the stakeholders visited expressed gratitude that we made time to engage with them and encouraged to speak to the priests to ask them to use the power of the pulpit to spread the information about human trafficking and child abuse. The stakeholders were informed about the plight of the people especially, the plight of government public school students, human trafficking in the state, illegal migrations, child abuse/neglect, poor learning condition of the children, understaffed of the teachers, lack of proper monitoring and evaluation in the school system, unemployment among the youth and general societal problems.
Gloria Ozuluoke RSC