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Remembering the Children of Soweto


World marks Day of the African Child

By Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya


The Day of the African Child (DAC) is commemorated every year on 16th June in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, during which students who marched in protest against the poor quality of education were massacred by the then apartheid regime in place in South Africa.


The Day of the African Child (DAC) has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness on the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.


In Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976, about ten thousand black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young students were shot, the most famous of which being Hector Pieterson. More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured.


On June 16 every year, governments, NGOs, international organizations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of children in 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.


The Day of the African Child (DAC) and this years’ observance in particular was commemorated on the theme “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunity”. The Child friendly version is “Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunities for children in Africa by 2030″.


Similarly, in a previous article on the subject titled; The Challenges of the African Child: Nigeria as a Case Study (, I provided a vivid picture of the challenges mitigating against the full actualization of the African’s child potential. I gave a long list of the challenges and I also provided workable solutions to the problems.


Excerpts; “Sheyi is barely six years old, yet he has to contribute something to improve the fortunes of the family, he hawks plantain every morning before going to school and he continues in the evening, he sells bottled drinks with snacks at Berger bus park just to complement the little pittance his parents earn. Sheyi’s story is a common one, these are situations we are confronted with on a daily basis, you will always see child laborers, child hawkers, child beggars, child conductors and even child agberoes in every nook and cranny of our metropolises and you would be forced to wonder if it is as bad as it is made to seem.  In rural areas, children, especially girls, start work at 5 or 6 years of age.


Today, 16th of June is the International day of the African Child and the bitter truth is that the African child is the most shortchanged in the world. In subsequent paragraphs, I would examine the challenges children from the black man continent are faced with using Nigeria as a reference point.


Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa, this writer’s country of birth and the worst place to be born but ironically, the country is equally the highest exporter of crude on the continent which makes her the best example. According to a UNICEF survey, 45% of the country’s total population is below the age of 15 which implies that about 66,484,000 people are within age 15 or below. This astonishing figure should be a reference point for the country’s administrators because this age group is what we generally refer to as leaders of tomorrow. Hence, they should be given utmost consideration when decisions are taken but, is that the case?” (Oluwole Olusanya, 2015)


Perhaps, I would like to state unequivocally that this article is a reminder, a wake-up call and a follow-up to the previous one earlier written to remind the decision makers and those at vintage positions that the plights of children born into this continent are real as proven in the article with extensive research findings and other evidence stated in the previous write up.


Most importantly, this write-up would not discuss the challenges, it would only provide suggested/workable solutions to decision makers and encourage everyone of us to offer our collective and individual contribution in the bid to ensure that no stone is left un-turned in the journey to reverse the fortunes of the African child.


A massive Re-orientation of the populace is urgently needed. In my previous article titled; Child Marriage is Child Labor: Change Begins with Me, (, I buttressed the same point. Excerpts, “The massive re-orientation of the people on the importance of ensuring that children are given adequate education and their welfare is given satisfactory attention demands for our collective dedication. Ignorance should not be excused on the basis of poverty; these girls (and their male counterparts) are children not commodities to be exchanged for cash or other valuables.” (Oluwole Olusanya, 2016)


I totally agree that we need to educate and re-orientate the average African parent on the need to ensure that their wards are given the best head start in life.


“Secondly, I would love to appeal to the international community, NGOs and the government at all levels on the need to double the effort on the fight against child marriage, exploitation and other forms of violence against children. The international definition of a child is anyone below the age of 18 and these set of people contribute an enormous figure to the world’s population statistics so the need for them to be given adequate attention cannot be over-emphasized.” (Child Marriage is Child Labor: Change Begins with Me – Oluwole Olusanya, 2016)


“If the situation is to be improved on, the government, parents, NGOs and international organizations like the UN, UNESCO, Amnesty International among others have to ensure that efforts are channeled forwards ensuring the fate of the African child is not tampered on.” (The Challenges of the Africa Child: Nigeria as A Case Study – Oluwole Olusanya, 2015)


Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President, South Africa


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