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Africa: Bloggers Remember the International Day of the African Child

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.

June 16 marks the annual The International Day of the African Child. The International Day of the African Child was initiated by the Organisation of African Unity on June 16, 1991.

The day honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day and raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of quality of life for African children. The Soweto Uprising, also known as “June 16″, was a series of student-led protests in South Africa that began on the morning of June 16, 1976.

The focus this year for the June 16 event is on raising awareness of street children. Bloggers remember this day.

George of Kenyan Street Children blog says that there isn't much to celebrate this year:

There will be much to mourn and less to celebrate tomorrow as the number of children on Kenyan streets keeps increasing steadily and the street children continue to suffer. They lack basic needs, have health problems and are exposed to illicit drugs, communicable diseases and sexually transmitted diseases. Street children are often involved in road accidents and victimized by local authorities, the police and members of the public. Some of the children complain of mistreatment and abuse at government rehabilitation centers. In addition, children lack due process in the courts as they are often unrepresented in legal proceedings. Children are also vulnerable to exploitation. For example, young girls and boys are often used as prostitutes and young men are sometimes used to fulfill cultural practices, such as wife inheritance rituals.

There are many organizations involved in child welfare in Kenya but their lack of resources makes them vulnerable to control by donors. Some exist merely to take advantage of donor funding. The result is year after year we mourn the Day of the African Child instead of celebrating as we should.

Children celebrating Day of the African Child in Kenya last year. Photo courtesy of www.mullychildrensfamily.org.

Children celebrating Day of the African Child in Kenya last year. Photo courtesy of www.mullychildrensfamily.org.

“It’s a sad fact that there are many street children in Kenya,” says Kirsty McLullich:

Although you might not see many of them as you walk through the main streets of the CBD in Nairobi, they are there on the outskirts. Travel to a town like Thika and you can’t walk from one end of the main stage to the other without seeing a few, often with a bottle hidden up their sleeve to “hide” the fact that they are sniffing glue. There are a number of great organisations trying to help street children in Kenya. Often these children need a lot of rehabilitation and many find it hard adjusting to a life with rules and authority figures having been fending for themselves for months or even years…

Projects like Kandara Children’s Home have also given shelter to children who have been living on the streets. These are children who have not been on the streets for too long and don’t require intensive rehabilitation but nevertheless, they still have their stories to tell. Some of them have been incredibly bright young children who have been able to settle down in school and focus their attention on their studies and their future rather than surviving day to day, not knowing where the next meal will come from or what they will be driven to do in order to stay safe.

Jemilla notes that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly in Ghana has done a “good” job of clearing streets of street children. She asks, “…where exactly have the street children relocated to?”:

In Ghana, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly has done a “good” job of clearing major streets of hawkers and street children. Now one has to wonder – where exactly have the street children relocated to? The Osu Children's home abuse scandal in late 2010 highlights a key defect when it comes to checks and balances for programs purported to protect and provide basic necessities for orphans, street children and other vulnerable African child groups. Many-a-street-child is subjected to human predators who unleash a plethora of increasingly innovative mechanisms for exploiting children: physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse, it's all there. I daresay that the Oliver-Twist-gets-rescued scenario doesn't play out too often in most African societies, although the community is usually charged with taking care of vulnerable and orphaned children.

In late April I went on a work-related field trip to the Agbogbloshi market here in Accra – which, as it turns out, has one of the biggest onion markets I've ever seen – and was approached by a kayayo or woman (more like girl) porter. Thinking I was shopping, she offered to carry my purchases. I explained to her in Dagbani (language spoken predominantly in Northern Ghana) that my colleagues and I weren't buying anything, and thanked her for her offer. Visibly astounded that I spoke the same language as her, she reported excitedly to her peers that “Madam” understood their language. Now, I hardly regard myself as a “Madam” by any standards.

Diasporadical discusses lessons to be learned by Kenyans from the Soweto Uprising:

The kids in Soweto were fueled by their parents and sparked by circumstance. What about us? I was blessed enough to have a revolutionary activist as a parent, but how many Kenyans do? I venture to say there are more children of filthy rich politicians and tycoons than there are of activists. Put it this way, how many Kenyan activists survived long enough to raise children?

We’re still cowering in the shadow of the torture chambers at Nyayo House and the bodies that still litter our forests and rivers. We’ve been cultured into thinking that “Opening your mouth will get a gun shoved in it after your tongue is cut out to create space. Besides you know what: we’re not living so badly”. Right?

As comfortable as we may be now, it’s important to remember that your inaction now will affect the actions of your child or grandchild. Ndlovu Hastings, Hector Pieterson, the hundreds shot and beaten in cold blood, the others tortured and raped in bile and rage – this is the future that we pass on to our children because one day, kids in Kibera, Huruma, or somewhere in this country will get tired of having to share desks and stationery.

Louise Meincke believes that this is an opportunity for African governments to focus on the full potential that street children have:

The fact is there are many questions about street children that remained unanswered and often ignored. The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), who are organising the Day of the African Child, is using it as an opportunity to call for all individual states within the African Union to compile in-depth reports on street children and present them to the committee. By laying emphasis on this specific category of children the ACERWC recognise the urgency and need for increased actions and of adapting intervention strategies directed at them, through the allocation of significant resources.

Our network’s members and their local partners on the ground in Africa will be celebrating this commemoration, through a variety of events, meetings and media engagement. It will be an opportunity for African Government’s to focus on the full potential that street children have, rather than the so often negative labels.

A number of children in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe are not aware of the International Day of the African Child, Sokwanele reports:

Asked about the significance of the International Day of the African Child, a number of children in Bulawayo said that they had no idea that such a day even existed. “I don’t know anything about that,” one pupil said.

“It is not children alone, but the majority of people in Zimbabwe that do not know their rights,” a lawyer said. “The Ministry of Education must play its role in this regard. Children’s rights should be taught as a subject at schools; our education curriculum needs a paradigm shift,” he said.

A youth Programmes manager explained that the problem is that there is a lot of emphasis on sovereignty issues, at the expense of human rights: “Various activities can be done to inculcate this knowledge into our syllabi.” He emphasized that advancing young people’s civil liberties called for a multi-stakeholder approach.

The co ordinator of an orphaned children-based organisation reiterated that teachers and civic organisations must educate children on the International Day of the African Child. They also believe that the media should publicize it for children to fully comprehend its significance.

Bino and Fino remember the day by highlighting the need for quality free education:

The sad thing is that free primary education provision for the majority of African children is far from being available especially in the Sub-Saharan region. Especially when it comes to girls. Also it’s one thing to provide education and another to provide quality education. But things are progressing all be it slowly. One of the Millennium Development Goals is to achieve universal primary education. Apparently in Sub-Saharan Africa 42 million children were sent to school between 1999 and 2007. More girls are now being enrolled. However about one fourth of children in the region are not enrolled in school and there is a high drop out rate.

To commemorate the Day of the African Child thousands of children around Kenya read aloud together from the same story starting at 9am:

To highlight this the story that will be read has been co-written by two street children. The story has been deliberately not finished. Please download it below and let’s read it together on Thursday, 16th June, 2011 at 9.00am. All of us together!

The Bino and Fino African Educational kids cartoon launches its African Educational Kids Cartoon in Abuja, Nigeria to honor the Day of the African Child:

Bino and Fino, the educational cartoon will finally get its premiere in Nigeria. The first showing will take place in Abuja on Saturday the 18th . The Abuja launch will is timed to highlight the International Day of the African Child which takes place on June the 16th . The Bino and Fino cartoon project was initiated because of the need to provide Nigerian, African and African Diaspora children with educational media that also reflected positive aspects of their social culture and heritage.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.

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