Efforts by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage children to be heard, seen and be educated through effective participation in broadcast activities globally, received further boost with the marking of this year’s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB).
ICDB is observed globally on every first Sunday of March. This year’s celebration fell on March 5, 2012. With the theme for the year as: “Every Child in School,” the occassion emphasises the need for parents and organisations to ensure that children have access to quality education.
The Day presents unique opportunities for children to benefit from media, especially broadcast activities. ICDB gives expression to Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that every child has the right to express his or her opinion freely and to voice that opinion.
Consequent upon that, UNICEF, in 1991, tasked the media to do more for children. With the aid of the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), the day was launched and broadcasters took up the challenge.
The first ICDB was observed in 1992 by about 200 broadcasters drawn from over 80 countries. In 1993, 824 stations in 112 countries participated. Since then the number has grown. For instance, in 1995, more than 2,000 broadcasters over 170 countries took part in celebrating the Day.
The astronomically huge increase in participants is only a part of the story. Governments, broadcasters, communities and children have keyed into the programme by creating a better broadcast environment for young people. The Day is used as a stimulus for action on behalf of children.
Hitherto, media houses allocated only few hours of programming for children. Now, children will play a stronger role by expressing their opinions or concerns and for those among them that are vulnerable.
UNICEF organises few annual programmes such as World Literacy Day etc. But among its programmes ICDB is the most successful. Its success story arises from the massive support it enjoys from influential broadcasting organisations from all over the world. Broadcasters not only air programmes for or about children but by children.
In view of the success of the Day, NATAS has created the International Council/UNICEF Award in recognition of outstanding broadcasters participation in ICDB. This Award is intended to honour the television broadcaster with the best special programming for the Day.
“We are pleased that so many broadcasters embraced the International Children Day of Broadcasting this year, and are especially proud of the diversity and creativity these nominated broadcasters demonstrated in fulfilling UNICEF’s mission to involve young people in the media-making process,” says chief of UNICEF’s Internet, Broadcast and Image section, Stephen Cassidy, in a statement.
ICDB also addresses the out-of-school syndrome that plaques many nations. As is reflected in this year’s theme, the Day emphasises the need for children to access and receive quality education up to secondary school level. Broadcasters are expected to produce special TV and radio programmes to raise awareness in parents and guardians on the importance of enrolling children who have dropped out of school.
The UNICEF representative in Pakistan, Dan Rohrmann, comments on the emphasis the event places on education.
“Ensuring access to free and quality education for all children, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, is both a right in principle and a right in practice.
“It is essential to make all efforts to secure sufficient education budgets and invest in a dynamic and vibrant education sector that fully exploits the opportunities of new technologies and, above all, the amazing potential of children…”
As in other nations, the event was marked in the different states of Nigeria, including Abuja, the Federal capital. However, its impact was hardly felt by many Nigerians. The reason is that an event of that nature should give a voice to the aspiration of children, but it was not done. Such aspiration could take the form of a multi-event initiative that integrates culture and social issues for children and perhaps adolescents.
If the event must make a difference, it has to be a day of social mobilisation to put on the public agenda topics of interest to children throughout the country. Additionally, children ought to participate in various activities calling on the Nigerian society for compliance demand for their rights and protection from all types of violence in the family, community and society in general.
ICDB event in Nigeria will be inchoate if children are not trained on news reading in English and local languages. They have to be given access to public–owned television and radio stations, and if required, produce and present all programmes for that day.
They should be trained on how to operate studio equipment. Such day should afford children the opportunity to ask the president or their state governors questions that border on their welfare.