Today marks 29 years of celebrating the International Day of the African Child when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Union (OAU) in 1991.
This day honors the children who participated in the Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976; it also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
In Soweto, South Africa on June 16, 1976, about ten thousand black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds were shot.
This year’s theme is ‘Access to A Child- Friendly Justice System in Africa’.
It is a fundamental role for all of us to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that an African child faces in full realization of her or his rights.
This particular day is celebrated when most of the children in Africa are at home when schools are closed due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Challenges that an African child faces mostly are in homes, schools and the society at large.
In Kenya the government introduced online and learning through broadcasts on radio and TV. Many children have no access to the internet by virtue of where they are or their parents don’t own smartphones and TVs due to high poverty levels therefore it becomes a challenge for them to follow online classes. These children lag behind as few others who are capable move ahead. Though the government through the Ministry of Education announced that when schools will open the syllabus will resume where they stopped when schools closed due to Covid-19 therefore, this might help them to catch up.
An African child is denied education not that they refuse to continue with their education but it is due to poverty, even if the government introduced free education both in primary and secondary schools, the free education is not as free as it is. There is a fee that is paid by parents to enable their children continue with learning.
We have certain tribes in 26 countries in Africa that still practice Female Genital mutilation (FGM). FGM though justified by certain cultures as a rite of passage, it leads to trauma, psychological torture, withdrawal syndrome and it lowers a child’s self esteem.
An African child is forced into marriage; we have some tribes where a child is forced to marry an old man because of the wealth that the man has therefore by doing so the child does not have her say and her rights are infringed.
Due to the biting poverty, an African child may be involved in child labour to get little earning for his family. This leads to irregular school attendance and eventual drop out of school along the way.
Child labour is experienced during this Coronavirus period where children are involved in hawking businesses and working on people’s farms to be paid.
Malnutrition is another challenge that an African child faces due to poverty, globalization and high cost of living where a child depends on grains and tubers as staple food at the expense of nutrients rich foods, something that leads to malnutrition diseases i.e Kwashiorkor, and Marasmus. This deficiency diseases lead to retarded growth among children.
International African Child Day highlights the importance of education thus encouraging governments to provide quality education for children.
It emphasizes the value of education; a child who gets quality education at all levels has a better future.
It is therefore high time for African countries to consider the issues that those children fought for, bled and even some shot dead while protesting to get their rights.