Day of the African Child celebrations!Date Posted: 18 June 2012
Saturday 16th June was the International Day of the African Child. It is a day of celebration which commemorates the thousands of black children who bravely took to the streets in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976, to demand better education and the right to be taught in their own language at school, resulting in several hundred being severely injured or killed. The holiday was introduced by the Organisation of African Unity in 1991 and has been celebrated on 16th June every year since.
Here at KOP we believe in the vital importance of helping children thrive through health and education, so for us this was a very special day. The children at KOP’s projects, along with thousands of others across Africa, had the chance to celebrate and to use everything from singing to sign language to voice their own ideas about issues important to them. Marti and Natalia spent the day with our project partner the Ogra Foundation at the Ahero School for girls, near Kisumu, where twelve local schools came together for the festivities.
The day was packed full of motivational speeches and performances from each of the schools, from singing by a bright blue and white polka-dot clad choir to a traditional Masai dance lead by the powerful beating of drums. The spirit was joyful but all performances made a prominent point about child rights.
Worthy of mention is a stimulating play about an orphan girl taken in by her aunt and uncle but used as a servant and sexually abused instead of being sent to school. However, the local authorities were notified, the girl was rescued and the aunt and uncle sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The message was strong; children should not be used for labour, every child has the right to go to school, and child abuse of any kind is unacceptable and will be punished. Though dealing with a sensitive topic the young schoolboy actors balanced their play’s serious content with a comic tone using funny costumes, hyperbolic movements and the fact that all female characters were played by boys dressed in skirts!
Perhaps the most moving performance was by Ombaka Special School which emphasised this year's theme - the rights of children with disabilities: the duty to protect, respect and fulfil. Their set of poems and songs, spoken both out loud and in sign language, expressed how they did not choose to be blind, deaf, dumb, or mentally or physically disabled and that if given the right skills and respect they too can achieve great things. Their strong concluding chorus said it all: “Disability is not inability”.
On asking some of the children if they had enjoyed the day and if they felt motivated by it they responded very positively."Yes", one secondary school student said called Janet Omandi, "I work very hard because I want to be a doctor; a surgeon". Others wanted to be a lawyer, a newspaper editor, a university lecturer, an air hostess and a musician. And - because of their education - they can.
Though the day’s history is tragic, it is wonderful to see how thirty-six years on, it is still celebrated and used to campaign for children’s rights and empower them to pave positive futures. And KOP, ten years on, will continue to help them do exactly that.