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Marking the Day of the African Child

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This week, on Thursday June16 Zimbabwe joins the continent in celebrating and commemorating the 21st edition of the Day of the African Child.

All together for urgent actions in favour of street children is the theme set by the African Union (AU) for this year’s commemoration.

The Day of the African Child honours the Soweto Uprising, which took place in South Africa in 1976.

Thousands of black schoolchildren took a stand to protest against the poor standard of education they were receiving.

These students wanted the right to a racism-free education during the Apartheid era; this protest resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

However, it also led to the reform and made a significant contribution to the South African liberation struggle.

The day also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement in the education provided to African children.

Children (according to the African Youth Charter, children 18 years and below), have the right to education as well as many other basic needs such as food, shelter, security and good health.

This year’s commemoration is focusing on the street child in particular. Zimbabwe will mark the official opening of the 19th session of the Junior Parliament.

The debates programme and activities will be centred on this year’s theme and children living in the streets will be given an opportunity to participate in proceedings.

Part of a message from the chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Agnès Kabore Ouattara, says:

“The issue of children living on the streets in African towns is the visible face of large-scale violations of rights which thousands of children suffer” and these are a consequence of the harsh socio-economic conditions faced in most African countries today.

As we examined some of the causes for children living in the streets in last week’s edition, we saw that these causes are mainly rooted in the family and communities.

Reflecting on this day, I could not help thinking about a day when the African child would not have to be forced to compromise, short-changing himself/herself for the basic need for food.

I thought about that girl that has to sell her body just for her next meal and even then when her health is threatened, the first thing on her mind is still food.

This past week I also thought of the article I read about a father who raped his daughters and how this form of abuse to both boys and girls could be a reason why some children find solace in the street rather than in the home.

I thought about Aids orphans forced to be on the street because there is no one else in the family to look after them. And I thought about the boy whose father told him he did not want him.

I can see images of young boys forced into crime on the streets because the first thing on their mind is how they can get money to buy food, deprived of that basic right to nourishment.

These are just a few scenarios of children on the street and some of the cases we in society need to address and/or avoid.

In the days, months and years to come, it would be good to know that the African child is protected, has been privileged to learn, is loved and has been integrated into a progressive, peaceful society.

If you have a moment, do take time to commemorate this day at the Harare International Conference Centre on Thursday – remember the theme: All together for urgent actions in favour of street children.

If you would like to send some of your comments and thoughts feel free to email:

nndlovu@newsday.co.zw. If you have written any article, poem, short story and would like to have it featured in future, you can send it to nndlovu@newsday.co.zw

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