Day of the African Child

By: BY Nyokabi Ng’ang’ a, Claudine Otieno,

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“To every child- I dream of a world where you can laugh, dance, sing, learn, live in peace and be happy,” these are the words and the hope of Malala Yousafzail, an activist from Pakistan, that every child should be given an opportunity to dream and dream big for that matter.
The Day of the African child is one that is set apart for celebrations every June, the 16th, in a bid to celebrate the African child while commemorating the thousands of children who died in the Soweto uprising. Sarafina, a potent film production created in 1992, was one that resonated well with many, especially those of the African descent, on the issue and importance of liberating education as a measure of unchaining Africa from the bonds of colonization and foreign dominance. Just like the film Sarafina gestures, in 1976 the 16th of June, thousands of students took to the streets of Soweto in protest to the decision that was made on having Afrikaans, as the officiated language of instruction in all local schools. This decision was a move deemed racist hence imploring the thousands of students to counter it.
It is reported that 176 students-with an estimation made of up to 700 students died in the protest as a result of being gunned down by the then brutal police force, with thousands them injured in the events of the protests. This led to the adoption of 16th June as the ‘youth day’ in South Africa, by its government, and the ‘Day of the African child’ by the African Union in 1991. The Day of the African child, presently, commemorates the brave students who took part in the protest but also seeks to raise awareness of the situation of the Children in Africa and on the need for continuing to improve the education of the African children as reported by the World Health Organization.
It seeks to unite all the African children and build on the interests and the issues facing the African child. Annual celebrations of this day are themed by the African Union. This year, the Day of the African child was themed; “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s rights first, in an effort to call forth for the attention of the issues of children who are at the risk of being manipulated by the virtue of being in a vulnerable state in the event of being displaced, being orphaned or being a refugee.
It has been a struggle to liberate African children. In a continent where their rights are heavily exploited, little is being done to ensure that children actively and continuously know their rights. It has not been rolled out as a class or clubs in a majority of the schools to educate our young ones on their rights, not only for purposes of their own protection but also to bring up leaders who fully understand their position and influence they have in the society at large. The education system has not supported the uprising of African children into what we keep telling them to be. Rather, the system has been used as a form of control with no room for them to counter or raise questions on ongoing events in our countries. We are still witnessing cases of deaths involving student leaders. Students protesting for their own rights and reasons are faced with brutality, guns, and bullets. Even the license to protest or age as a young member of society does not separate you from the wrath of the harsh reality of African streets. Many rules have been formulated to protect the African child such as the Agenda 2040 developed by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, that expands ten aspirations made in a bid to make an ‘Africa fit for children.’
It is high time that all Africans realize there is a need to modify our education system. Education is a tool used in enlightening all Africans, whether young or old. If we do not let ourselves and those to come to be taught of justice, be taught of transformation, be taught of freedom, to be taught of excellence or even on the culture of ‘ubuntu’ through our educational system, we will sink into the deep ends of suppression and downgrade to the dependency syndrome.
Desmond Tutu clearly voices, “Children learn about the nature of the word from their family. They learn about power and about justice, about peace and about compassion within the family. Whether we oppress or liberate our children in our relationships with them will determine whether they grow up to oppress and be oppressed or to liberate and be liberated.”

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