Today, I choose to dwell my thoughts on children. The leaders of tomorrow-the future! The reason many parents run helter skelter everyday to make ends meet. They allow us see the good side of life and take each day with a smile. They are gifts from God.
Children are the often forgotten prides of a nation. They are the reason why governments of nations should consider the long time effects of their policies. But, sadly many world leaders especially those in the third world often forget about them in the scheme of things.
No wonder you do not need to look out of you car to see them hovering all around you at major roads whenever your car is forced to slow down because of potholes or traffic congestion. They stick their wares right into your car if your windows are open, urging you to buy their goods. And in the course of trying to exchange your money for their goods, if your driver is impatient and accelerates the car, you see them chasing the car to collect their money or catch it if it is thrown out from a high vehicle.
But I choose not to dwell my thoughts on sour experiences of children. My mind darts back to some merry experiences I had as a child. One that I look back and say, “If any child can dream big dreams and believe it, he or she can ‘work it’ and achieve it irrespective of challenges.” Then, we were still boys and we were proud that either one or both of our parents were staff of Federal School of Arts and Science, Ogoja.
We played football on the roads near the college’s sports centre. Two remnants from broken cement blocks placed ten paces of my foot apart formed the goal posts. They occupied the spots that the upright of a goal post would have been. Giggling, panting, focusing, kicking and aiming we chased around the round rubber which we fondly called flying carpet. We had no choice but to use the roads as our elder ones played their soccer games on the pitch nearby.
Nicknaming ourselves, we took names of local stars in our area or big stars we admired and this made us feel on top of the world. Hence, we screamed as we ran around the portion of the road serving as a soccer pitch calling out our adopted names. Popular names like Pele, Etim Esin, Goalkeeper Chukwuma, Shumaker, Maradona, Ruggeri, Chairman Christian Chukwu, Sam Okwaraji and other identities of reigning football stars and legends rent the air. The two opposing sides in the games were distinguished by those who wore shirts and those who wore none.
We abruptly stopped the soccer game when there was an oncoming car or motorcycle. If someone we liked was in the car, we saluted and cheered him or her, if it were someone we disliked we simply frowned or booed. Those who never allowed their kids to join us in a game, or those we considered stingy or strict never got our salutation. This added to the excitement as we played football with all our hearts on the road.
I could remember the day I sat on the gutter, close to a major road where boys often played soccer in the evening with a school mate in the Unity school I later attended. We talked about soccer stars and the big club sides and he clearly stated his desire for a big break, he said, “Okey, I dream of the day that I will play in the World cup, I love the quality of football there...I tell you, I will play in the World Cup one day”. He shook his head as he made that comment and I could see the burning passion in his eyes. Something in me believed him as I could recollect how he shined in soccer even back in our Primary school days.
I almost shed tears with joy when I saw the same schoolmate of mine, Bartholomew Ogbeche, in the starting line up of the Super Eagles in the Japan-Korea 2002 FIFA World cup game against Argentina. In a flash, I remembered that fateful afternoon. I saw a dream born, I saw a dream lived. Bartho, as we fondly call him may not be in the Super Eagles line up at the moment but he will always be a motivation. With such a zeal that catapulted him to stardom, I do not doubt his ability to bounce back to the highest echelon of soccer in the nearest future.
There are many children out there with dreams. But most of their dreams die and they fail to dream again because they are either talked out of it or fail to go far in its pursuit because of difficulties.
In our African society where mediocre leadership continues to exist, the future of our children is continually jeopardized. And their lives become full of turmoil as global population increases in our fast changing world.
Imagine a world without children. It will be a place where we would lack the innocence and cheerfulness of infants. It would be a world that would be devoid of continuity. It would be a boring place.
The challenge today, is for you and I. Let us become more interested in the plight of disadvantaged children. Let us show them a little kindness. A word of encouragement, taking out time to review their school work with them, teaching them good manners, giving them a gift that would add value to them would not cost us too much.
By doing so, we would be sowing good seeds into their future and it would be a step in tackling the woes of our children.
This post is part of a series inspired by the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) campaign, hosted by Stepping Stones Nigeria. Please add your name to the PACT petition to prevent abuse of innocent children in the Niger Delta and visit the site to find out more: www.makeapact.org