Bravery and determination are two things that inherently characterize the African child.
June 16th marks the 45th anniversary of the Soweto uprising where 20,000 students in Soweto, South Africa took to the streets to protest against the poor quality of education and to demand their right to be taught in the English language.
This was as a result of a decree issued by the colonial government to the effect that the language of instruction in Soweto’s high schools which served black Africans would be Afrikaans – a language of the white minority that ruled South Africa.
The black Africans were already struggling to study in a foreign language – English – but would tolerate it as English was deemed an international language. However Afrikaans was simply a language of their oppressor.
This pushed the children to the streets and what was supposed to be a peaceful protest ended up in turmoil. The police and law enforcement officers who, in a bid to disperse the crowd, opened fire, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. In 1991, the Organization of African Unity initiated the Day of the African Child to honor the bravery and sacrifice of those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976.
Why do we celebrate it today
Today, the day is used to raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
Looking back on the 16th of June 1976 one thing particularly stands out, the bravery and sheer determination of those 20,000 plus school-going children in standing up and fighting for what they believed in despite the circumstances. Their bravery inspired the adults in South Africa and the world over to finally declare “enough is enough” and work together to bring an end to Apartheid.
Bravery and determination are two things that inherently characterize the African child. Bravery, to face any challenges that life throws their way, and a determination so profound that the lack of adequate opportunities or resources is not enough to stop them from achieving their goals.
The likes of Wangari Maathai, a village girl from Central Kenya who beat the odds and rose to be the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize; or Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the seventh Director-General of the WTO who rose to become the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General to one of the largest global organizations. What about Aliko Dangote, Trevor Noah, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, Lupita Nyong’o, and countless other children of Africa who have risen above the odds to excel in their chosen fields.
All these serve to show that given the opportunity, the African Child has a lot to offer the world. So as we celebrate the Day of the African Child and look at the progress made in the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children, let’s strive to do better. To create equal opportunities and safe spaces for the African child to not only live but also thrive.