2019 Day of The African Child Commemoration
This weekend, on Sunday to be precise, South Africa leads the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of The African Child. Every year, June 16 is remembered world over as the day the South African black child said enough is enough to oppression in education provision and took to the streets, to protest the brand of education they were getting in schools designated for blacks by the apartheid system. They wanted better education and a right to be educated in their own language not the forced language of the apartheid masters, Afrikaans.
On this day in 1976, about a ten thousand strong throng of students marched in Soweto in order to make their cry for a better chance in life heard. As a result, hundreds of unarmed students were shot by the security forces. Many died and more were maimed. Two weeks of protests followed and many more died. These children in 1976 sacrificed their lives so that the South African child of today could enjoy better opportunities. Granted, not all our schools are of the highest standards, and the system is not perfect, but we have come far from what there was in 1976. The vision of the children who died in the Soweto protests lives on.
June 16 was first recognized by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1991. The day was set apart as a day to celebrate the African Child as well as a way to commemorate those killed during the Soweto Uprising. Today, the day is a globally recognized one where the courage of the students who marched for their right to an education is recognized and awareness is raised for the need to better education for children throughout the world. The need is still there today. Of the over 57 million primary school age children currently out of school around the world, it is estimated that over half this number are from sub-Saharan Africa
The theme for the 2019 Day of the African Child is “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First”. According to African Library Vibes, “Humanitarian actions are mainly offered to assist those who have no power or abilities on their own to seek and acquire basic amenities for everyday living while upholding their human dignity. It is estimated that there are at least 13.5 million African children who have been displaced from their homes through conflicts, climate change and poverty and are in need of humanitarian help. These children live as refugees, migrants or internally displaced persons, existing from day to day without the facilities and opportunities to fulfil their potentials in life. The figures become more worrisome when Orphaned and Vulnerable children (OVC) are added to the total tally.”
Zeroing in on the South African scene, where it all began, it is sad that this year’s commemoration is falling on a week and month that the education sector has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. On Tuesday this week, a teacher was shot and killed at Masuku Primary School in KwaZulu-Natal. A 15 year old was caught on CCTV footage entering a classroom at his high school in Sea Point where an exam was being written last week. He and other suspects allegedly robbed the teacher and pupils at gunpoint before fleeing the scene. Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Tuesday that he was shocked that 13 pupils are awaiting court appearances for various crimes in the province. In the last couple of weeks, a number of students have died at the hands of other students.
These events beg for an answer. The security situation in the South African schools needs immediate and long lasting solution as the trend cannot go on. When teachers feel they have to carry arms for self protection, it is a sign that things are not going well at all. This, if allowed to happen will only aggravate the situation. The Basic Education Department has said in a statement, that crime prevention and the teaching of positive values and morals required a joint effort from parents and communities. During this time as we remember the sacrifices of those who died for a better education system and by extension better life for the South African child, let us take heed not to be the generation that trampled underfoot this expensive legacy.