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Putting education for children on the agenda
June 16: International Day of the African Child
On June 16, 1971, children in Soweto, South Africa, marched to protest the poor quality of education. 36 Years later, the protest that ended in a massacre is remembered all over Africa, on International Day of the African Child; on this day, the need to improve education for children in Africa is once again put on the agenda, by numerous organisations all over the continent and in Europe.
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 during this ‘Soweto Uprising’. More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured.
The children have not been forgotten. In 1991, the Organisation of African Unity initiated the celebration of International Day of the African Child, every year on June 16. The day honours the courage of the children who participated in the protests, and advocates for further action to address the physical and educational needs of children in Africa.
Many African children face two challenges: staying alive beyond the age of five and, after that, getting developed and educated and possibly live a better life. However, as many as 50,000 African children under the age of five lose their lives as the result of preventable or curable diseases.
In Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Liberia, Mali, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso an average of one in every four or five children die before getting the chance to learn to read and write at school.
Having overcome the first threat, many African children are denied education as the result of hunger, disease, discrimination and/or inadequate facilities. As many as 38 million children of primary school age in Africa still remain out of school. The UN Millennium Campaign Communications Coordinator for Africa, Ms. Sylvia Mwichuli, comments: “Investing in the health and education of African children and their mothers is a sound economic decision and one of the surest ways for a country to secure its future”, adding that ensuring universal primary education requires strong political commitment.
Numerous organisations inside and outside Africa will advocate children’s right to education on June 16. In Brussels (Belgium) the United Wisdom of Africa Foundation (UWAF) is hosting a Benefit Gala & Concert – with many EU politicians present to draw attention to the contemporary lives of the African children.
In African countries, conferences are being held to celebrate African Child
Day. ANPPCAN, a Pan-African network
that promotes child rights and child protection in 22 African countries, is
hosting many local events in rural areas, highlighting this year’s theme of ‘The
Rights of Children with Disabilities’. In many of these, hearing-impaired
children will play a large part; participating in essay writing competitions and
performing in drama, skits and songs.
How is this special day celebrated in your area?
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