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Day of the African Child - A time to reflect

Jun 17, 2010, 11:02 AM

Every year since June 16, 1991 when the OAU established it, the Day of the African Child is celebrated to raise awareness about the plight of children on the continent.

This year, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has called for increased investment in Africa's children for the continent's future development.

Many of the millions of African children who do not live to see their fifth birthday could be saved with greater investment in basic health services and infrastructure, the UN agency said.

The theme for this year's African Child's Day celebration is, "Planning and Budgeting for Children: A Collective Responsibility For All." Let this start at the family level, which is the first line of defence. Parents must ensure that they produce the number of children they can ably cater for, UNICEF said in a statement.

The day is held in memory of thousands of black South African school children who took to the streets in 1976 to protest against the inferior quality of their education and imposed medium of teaching. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down and thousands other people injured in the two weeks of protest that ensued.

To honour the memory of the children who were massacred on that day, and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on  June 16, every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (now African Union).

As the day is celebrated, let us reflect on the upbringing of our children. They are the future of tomorrow, the way we treat them today, will determine who they will grow up to be.

"Investing in children today will yield benefits for generations to come," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. "It will also help save the lives of an estimated 4.5 million African children under five years of age who die each year, largely from preventable causes."

As UNICEF said, governments must promote adequate budget allocations for children and ensure that poverty reduction strategies and national development plans are child-centered.

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them."

 Lady Bird Johnson