Guest speaker Cynthia Aja got the students’ attention when she said flogging was used instead of giving a note for not doing homework in her native Nigeria.
Cynthia who left Nigeria aged 8 to come to Ireland with her family, is now in her second year studying to be a youth worker in Carlow IT.
“I was lucky enough, my parents made education very important, with after school lessons, whereas some kids don’t get basic primary education,” she said.
Only 16 of the Children’s rights have been passed in Nigeria, with the remaining 26 “not paramount of their worries” she said.
“Here problems are picked up quickly by the social system or the church, but there children are open to homelessness and trafficking, like the 200 girls who were kidnapped because of conflicts. Boys are taken and made into child soldiers and prone to exploitation,” she said.
“If some children are involved in crime here, the youth mentors are involved, probations officers are involved, social workers, but in Nigeria, they don’t care what you did or why you did it, you don’t get a voice to plea your case, once you are in jail that’s it, there is no leeway,” she said.
“Universally, every child has a right to food, security and education. The more you work at this, the better for everybody in the world,” she told the audience of 160 Laois teenagers at the AGM of Laois Comhairle na nÓg.
“In neighbouring countries it is even harder. In the Congo or Rwanda, if you oppose the government, that’s it, your family gets killed for trying to tell the government what you want,” she said.
“No matter how small, you are entitled to be heard, you have rights and those rights have to be protected,” said Cynthia, to a round of applause from the students.