BY DONATA KIIZA
ChildFund Rwanda has pledged to continue supporting children in understanding and enjoying their rights. The commitment was made during the celebrations to mark the International Day of African Child, also known as the Day of the African Child.
The organization celebrated the day with children of G.S Jabana School in Jabana sector on Wednesday June 14 and E.P Jali in Jali sector on Friday June 16.
Celebrations at E.P Jali were graced by the school pupils, school leaders, parents and local leaders.
The Day of the African Child was first established by the Organization of the African Unity, known today as African Union in 1991 and is annually celebrated on June 16th.
In Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976, about ten thousand black school children marched more than half a mile long in a column, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language.
Hundreds of young students were shot and more than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, as well as thousands who were injured.
Since 1991, the Day of the African Child is remembered with aim of raising awareness for the critical situation surrounding an African child due to socioeconomic, culture, traditional and developmental circumstances; protecting the rights and welfare of children in Africa inclusive. This year’s them of the Day of African Child is “ Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunity”.
Speaking at the event, the Country Manager of ChildFund Rwanda, Dongwook Kim said that as ChildFund Rwanda, they are dedicated to work together with other stakeholders so as to see what can be done for the respect of children’s rights and put to an end challenges facing the children of Rwanda.
“Together with the support of the parents, teachers, children and government leaders, we can end all forms of violence towards our children and every African child.
Therefore, let us join efforts to see that their rights are fully respected as well as make known of these rights to them so that they can enjoy them,” said Kim.
Kim added that since last year, the organization has put efforts in education while encouraging children to like going to school through ECE project. In addition to this, the organization launched the campaign called ‘Murakoze Mwalimu’ to improve the quality of education fostered by increased confidence of teachers affected by wider positive social recognition. The campaign is to encourage children to write letters for teachers to show their appreciation for teachers’ devotion, passion and teaching not only curriculum but also many other things in their lives.
Lawyer Godeberthe Nyiranzeyimana from Lawyers of Hope, a Christian organization, educated children of E.P Jali about their rights as written in the Rwandan law number 54 since 2011, December 14.
“Every child has to be aware of their rights and have the responsibility to see that they can fully enjoy them. They have a right to education, can choose a religion of their choice, they have right to give their opinions, should be given basic needs and should eat a balanced diet among others,” said Nyiranzeyimana.
Children in attendance were asked to report matters of violence against them including sexual harassment, child labor and negligence to their local leaders and any police station nearby.
Amiable Wamahoro, in charge of education in Jali sector motivated parents to continue taking their children to school since this does not only benefit children but also the nation.
“As much as children’s rights are being advocated for every day, some parents have adamantly continued to deny children’s rights to education,” said Wamahoro.
He said that some parents today still have a wrong perception of taking their children to school and have told them that their responsibility is to graze cattle, fetch water and collect firewood.
“Children learn a lot through attending school and can develop their talents through different activities which take place at school so as to be people of substance in future.” he added.
During celebrations, pupils of E. P Jali expressed their opinions and happiness through songs, poems, drama, dances, modeling and drawings.
A group of pupils presented a play where two families were represented. One family took their children to school where as the other withdrew their children from school to go and graze cattle, fetch water and firewood.
The family that understood child’s education, intervened as they encouraged the other family to take back their children to school. The play ended as one of the children who had not dropped out of school becoming a mayor and someone of substance in her district.
Apart from children’s performances, ChildFund Rwanda organized ‘learning corner’ to let children and community people to understand and know children’s rights coined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In the learning corner, children participated in hand printing where they colored their hands with paint and stamped a wall as a sign of agreeing with their rights. They also washed their hands as a way of learning the importance of clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
ChildFund Rwanda will continue the Day of African Child campaign to hear children’s voices and raise awareness and understanding of children’s rights.