In line with commemorating with this year’s Day of the African Child with the theme “Accelerating Protection, Empowerment, and Equal Opportunities for Children by 2030,” State of the Union (SOTU) Coalition joins hands with other well-meaning network of CSOs across Africa to further protect the right and welfare of the average African Child.
This day brings to remembrance the Soweto uprising which occurred in South Africa on June 16, 1976, where young students protested against the poor educational facilities they had. This incidence led to the death of millions of children, thereby leading to the declaration of that day being the Day of the African Child (DAC).
Africa is known to be the second most populous continent, and has a considerable number of her population as children. For the past years, there have been various issues facing the average African Child. These issues range from access to basic education, child labour, early childhood marriages, sexual abuse, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, amongst others.
One must commend the efforts of the various African Governments that have signed unto and ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as the Charter provides for children to enjoy rights and freedom without discrimination and guarantees all children the right to life, nationality, education, privacy, health, leisure, recreation and culture. In other words, the interest of the child is a paramount factor in every decision-making process. This Charter is also in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child.
Africa has generally made progress in ensuring basic, social and economic rights for children. In Malawi, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, for instance, free and compulsory education for all children has been entrenched in their constitutions. There has also been a steady decline in infant and under-five mortality across Africa. However, a lot remains to be done to ensure that societal norms that are detrimental to the overall well-being of the African Child are eradicated, as, for example, there are still African societies that prefer to enrol the boy-child in school over the girl-child. Nigeria, for instance, has the highest number of children out of school. Between 75% and 80% of the girls in Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina and Kano States are not in secondary schools and in 16 states, more than 50% of girls have no access to secondary school education. This situation gives room for suppression of the girl-child and hardly gives her equal opportunity to grow intellectually and become independent in the future.
Although this issue of lack of access to education is being addressed by the Nigerian government with the passage of the Universal Basic Education Act, which was passed into law in 2004, and represents the government’s strategy in combating illiteracy and extends basic opportunities to children in the country. Other countries like Rwanda has, since 2010, introduced six years of free basic education and six years of post-primary education, while the government of South Africa has established earmarked “no fee” schools and gives fee waiver to parents from disadvantaged communities. These measures have resulted in a substantial increase gross enrolment of children in primary education institutions.
The above-stated issues facing the average African Child are enormous; however, what we can do is proffer recommendations in addition to the provision of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, which would achieve the theme of this year’s Day of the African Child.
Some of these recommendations are:
- Urging of member states that are yet to domesticate the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to do so within a stipulated time
- Placing more stringent penalties on individuals who violate the right of the child through abuse, sexual violence, discrimination of children with disabilities, etc;
- Stoppage of discrimination of the girl-child in all ramifications;
- Establishment of basic infrastructural facilities, such as education and health services that would attend to the basic needs of an average African Child