Kenya: Day of the African child in Lagdera district
It is morning in Shanta Abaq at the 16th of June 2012. The activities to celebrate the international Day of the African Child are about to start. While the football teams from the primary and secondary school are warming up for the match that will kick-off the activities for today, the Tdh car that has been mobilising children in surrounding villages to participate in today’s event is arriving.
Never before in the history of Shanta Abaq, Day of the African Child celebrations had been organised. The chief of the village, some religious leaders, important elders and leaders of various community groups are joining the crowd that has started to form. After a brief prayer and the blessing of the chief, the referee blows his whistle and the celebrations can begin.
The Day of the African child is celebrated on June 16th to honour the memory of children killed during marches in South Africa in 1976. Thousands of black school children participated in this march in the streets of Soweto on the 16th Of June that year. They protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. In the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.
To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on 16 June every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union).
This year the Day of the African child draws attention on the lives of African children with disabilities. It was chosen by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child because ‘children with disabilities are generally hidden in Africa, and therefore their plight is often ignored and disregarded in national policies and legislation.’
In local language the theme of the DAC in 2012 was displayed in Shanta Abaq: “The Rights of Children with Disabilities”: ‘the duty to protect, respect, promote and fulfil.’ After the football game ended a total of 900 boys, girls, men, women, youth, leaders and elders gathered in the hall of the primary school to listen to their children. Plays, songs, poems and dances were prepared by children from schools in Shanta Abaq and surrounding villages all raising awareness amongst the public on the rights of children with disabilities. A final speech by the 15 year old Master of Ceremony ended the successful day. As the chief concluded after the end of the celebrations: ‘This has been the first day specifically for children in our village. We are going to do this every year!’