The International Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity. It honors those who participated in the Soweto uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children. On June 16th 1976, between ten and twenty thousand South African school children walked from their schools to Orlando Stadium in Soweto, peacefully protesting for better standards in education and the right to be taught in their own language. For hundreds, this act of defiance against the Apartheid regime was their last: police opened fire on the students and released dogs into the crowd causing pandemonium and loss of life with over a thousand people injured.
As well as having important ramifications for the ANC in the struggle against Apartheid, the uprising also drew attention to the dismal state of the education system in South Africa. This cause has been seized upon by those wishing to commemorate the individuals who died in the Soweto uprising, leading to the establishment of the International Day of the African Child. On June 16th every year, governments, NGOs, international organisations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realisation of the rights of children Africa.
For 2014, the theme chosen returns to the roots of the movement: “A child-friendly, quality, free, and compulsory education for all children in Africa”
Despite inclusion of this aim in the millennium development goals under MDG2, and despite some progress towards universal primary education, there is still a long way to go. While access to education has increased, the quality of the education provided is often below the optimal level. Progress in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan countries, lags behind the progress in other developing countries.
On June 16th this year, events are being held around the world to draw attention to the issues surrounding the provision of education in Africa. In Adis Ababa, young people are taking over the African Union to discuss the issues most important to them. In Bangladesh 500 indigenous and marginalised youths will gather for a rally. Schools in Australia are expressing support for the 250 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram. You too can do something for the present and furute of the African Child. Register your own event on Youth Action Month & Day of the African Child.
Change and progress will not happen overnight, but with a broad and growing consensus on the importance of this issue there is definite hope for the future.
Image credit: Morocco World News. Post Credit: Peace Child International