May 28, 2009, 7:38 AM
This is a significant occasion for Africa, especially because it means a lot to preserving the rights of the child – among them the right to life, the right to health, and the right to good education, for which the children of South Africa shed their blood in 1976 when school children took to the streets to protest for their right to quality education and to be free from the limitations of speaking a language known as – the Afrikaan. They as well refused to be complacent with a level of status that reduced South African people to “hewers of wood and drawers of water”.This protest, known as the Soweto Uprising which took place on 16 June 1976, is the genesis of what has today been transformed to the Day of the African Child.
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity. It honours those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 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 of young students were shot, the most famous of which being Hector Peterson. More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured,” (source: www.cute-calendar.com.)
As the day is observed each year, it is good to note that the dire condition faced by African children since those days has continued unabated. We should all therefore continue the fight to protect our children and make this world a better place for them and for humanity in general.
According to Child Protection Alliance coordinator Njundu Drammeh, the commemoration of the Day of the African Child gives us the opportunity to reflect on the plight of children in Africa. It is a day for us all to think about those children who are caught in conflict or trapped in abuse and exploitation, and about the daily violations of their basic rights as children, as well as to think about the future of a hopeful African society.
Thus, the Day provides us the space and opportunity to mobilise all our efforts towards the welfare of children, who constitute the backbone of our continent’s future.
“More than just a commemoration,” he says, “the Day of the African Child seeks to draw the attention of all actors involved in improving the condition of children on the continent and to unite their efforts to combat the ills that plague the daily lives of children. It is also an occasion for Governments, international institutions and communities to deal with this delicate condition of children by organising activities to promote the rights of the child.”
In The Gambia, concerted effort is being made by various stakeholder institutions and individuals to promote the rights and welfare of the child, among them are the Department of Social Welfare, the Operation Save the Children Foundation (OSCF), Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia, Child Protection Alliance and other groups.
In a similar vein there has been a month’s nation-wide sensitization campaign to end child marriage in The Gambia. The campaign is spearheaded by the First Lady of The Gambia and founder of OSCF, H.E. Madam Zineb Yahya Jammeh, who will be launching the African Union (AU) Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa today at the Sheraton Hotel in Brufut.
So, we are on course in the campaign to protect the rights of our children and promote their welfare for better Gambia and Africa.
“The DAC is an occasion for Governments, international institutions and communities to deal with the delicate condition of children.”