The International Day of the African Child, is celebrated each year on June 16. Initiated by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), it honours those who lost their lives during the infamous ‘Soweto Uprising’, in 1976. Through out Africa campaigns are held in recognition of the importance of the African child.
UNICEF, one of the key global bodies which has attached the much needed importance to this day; narrowing down this year’s theme around the pressing issue of child trafficking.
Trafficking of children is one of those miserable societal shortcomings, happening in both the industrialized and developing nations alike. Trafficked children are often subjected to some of the most horrendous forms of abuse.
In South Africa this was particularly prevalent during the dark days of Apartheid.
Africa thus gave forth this day to the world in recognition of the day when, in 1976, thousands of black school children in Soweto, took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education.
They were also demanding the right to be taught in their own language. In the ensuing run with the apartheid police hundreds of young boys and girls lost their lives.
The day is particularly significant, in the history of apartheid, in that in the two weeks of protest that followed the Soweto children’s demo; more than 100 people were killed, with 1,000 injured.
Here in Rwanda, tremendous efforts have been made in the promotion of the children’s rights. Not with standing, the many challenges that had to be overcome, after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which created so many orphans and child -headed households.
Overcoming the odds through various policy initiatives, Rwandan children, now own laptops, through the One Laptop per child programme. Access to education made easier through the universal education policy adopted by government – primary school children study free of charge.
However, we should not just wait for June 16, to remember the plight of Africa’s children, the challenge is to continue remembering and honouring them knowing that, they are Africa’s future.