African Union must address issues of child poverty and child abuse
Today – 16th June – the continent of Africa celebrates a day of African child. A day that was set aside in honor of the 1976 Soweto Uprising or Soweto Riots (this depends where one stands, politically) where scores of black school children were killed by white riot police. As is usually the case with this kind of politics, the number of children who got killed on the day is disputed. Depending on who you are listening to, the number is between 25 to 100. It remains the most horrific day of the South African apartheid nonetheless. The apartheid system lasted approximately 66 years.
The Uprising was a protest by South African Student’s Movement against the law or registration that forced them to learn in Afrikaans, a language the students perceived as the oppressor’s language. The law/regulation came into effect despite the 1972 poll, which established that 98 per cent of black students were against it and that they preferred to study in English instead, as it was increasingly becoming commercial language. On the day of the massacre, between 300 and 400 students representing 55 Sowetan schools decided to stage mass demonstration against the registration. In response, the apartheid government deployed 1,500 police with Stern guns, automatic rifles and hand machine carbines and there were army units on standby.
This was the brutal nature of the apartheid regime. Today we can only look back in disbelief, dismay, anger … or whatever emotions you may have. However, it is even more shocking today when we are living in the so called civilised period and yet children all over the world, developing countries in particular, are still going through such ordeals, albeit to a different degree.
Take a look at these statistics from the charity, Fight Poverty
-200,000 child slaves are sold every year in Africa. There are an estimated 8,000 girl-slaves in West Africa alone. (Source: BBC 5 October, 2001 & Anti-Slavery Society).
-About 120,000 African children are participating in armed conflicts. Some are as young as 7 years old. (Source: Africa Children’s Charter).
-Children account for half of all civilian casualties in wars in Africa. (Source: Africa 2015).
-One in six African children dies before the age of five. Most of these deaths could be prevented. (Source: Africa 2015).
-Nearly one third of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are underweight. (source: UNICEF).
-In sub-Saharan Africa, measles takes the life of a child nearly every minute of every day. An effective measles vaccine costs as little as $1 per child. (source: UNICEF).
-Between 12 and 14 million African children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. (source: World Bank/UNICEF).
-Nearly 2 million children under 14 years old are HIV positive. (source: UNICEF).
-43% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have safe, accessible drinking water. (source: UNICEF).
-64% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have adequate sanitation. (source: UNICEF).
-Only 57% of African children are enrolled in primary education, and one in three of those does not complete school. (source: Africa 2015).
-For every 100 boys there are only 83 girls enrolled at primary school. (source: World Bank/UNICEF).
These statistics are pretty horrific and I am sure it will shock many people out there. This is mainly because this is the area the international community have decided to neglect. We are told about ‘war on terror’ everyday, we hear about celebrities adopting children from poor countries, we hear about human rights organisations opposing such adoptions and yet everyone has totally given a blind eye to the plight of children on the continent of Africa. The day is celebrated, yes; but do we only have to give attention to the suffering of children on this day alone?
In my little country, Malawi, one of the most affected countries by this catastrophe this day will be honored at a small primary school somewhere in a hidden corner of Malawi’s new and fourth city, Zomba. There has been no coverage of it at all in the press. I only I know about it through a promotional advert on Malawi’s Zodiak Broadcasting Station. Thanks that I can listen to the radio on-line.
Today we look back at the brutality of the apartheid regime in South Africa, but how will the future generations going to judge the leaders and policy markers of today? Those who leave in the Western Europe and Northern Africa will know how these children are paraded on TV commercials, as charity organisations plead with everyone who could listen that lives of these children could be served with a donation of 50 Pence or a Dollar every month. And yet the perpetuators of child poverty, through child trafficking, conscription, child labour, child neglect etc are left scot-free to abuse more children.
No one can do for you what you are supposed to do for yourself, African Union (AU) must wake-up to these realities and start addressing it. Every child has a right to a happy childhood, and it is AU’s responsibility to ensure that no African child is denied this right. Africa will never develop, so long as these realities linger!