By: Hertha Ekandjo, Annakleta Haikera
Street kids who are also part of the African child are, in most cases, excluded from youth spaces.
These were the words of the chairperson of the health committee of the children’s Parliament Rivaldo Kavanga, as the country commemorated the African child day on Thursday.
“If we look at our youth spaces, with the different engagements that we host with children, how often do we see children on the street being included in those programmes,” he said.
He said that street kids are hardly given the opportunity to express themselves and their needs.
Kavanga said when he spoke to street kids, they informed him that they feel they are not seen and are treated as stepchildren in their own country. He said these kids should be taken back into society and involved in youth spaces.
Kavanga says that the day of the African child is commemorated in celebration and remembrance of the students in Soweto who protested against the apartheid Bantu education.
“We need to continue fostering a system in which we allow African children to thrive. Primarily there should be a fight against child labour, a fight against child marriages,” he told the villager.
Kavanga says child rape and child labour were common back in the days and are still experienced.
“It is a difficult fight to eliminate these harmful practices. However, it is attainable,” Kavanga explained.
He narrated that the current education system is the best education in the world, looking at the Namibian context.
According to him, with the new curriculum, government is trying its best, and the Soweto students’ dream to win the battle against the Bantu education will be reached.
In Namibia, the day was officially commemorated in Kavango East at the Rundu sports stadium for the first time under the theme of “Eliminating Harmful Practice Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice since 2013.”
The Kavango East governor Bonifatius Wakudumo said the region faces challenges affecting children, such as teenage pregnancy, early marriages, rape and child neglect, children with absent fathers and mothers and in most cases, children are dumped in the care of the grandparents.
“The region has recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies in 2020 with 552 and increased to 860 in 2021. The youngest was 11 years old girl. This unfortunate situation needs to be challenged by all of us seriously. Therefore, I am appealing to all of us to start acting and condemning these social evils in our societies because it contributes to child death.
Wakudumo further said while the region is one of the poorest, this can be reversed if children make education their priority.
“Education must be the number one priority for all children because education is our only key to eradicating poverty. Those youth and children who participated in the uprising fought for our freedom so that we could have a better education, and surely we are now enjoying free education in most African countries. In its part, the government of the Republic of Namibia is doing much giving social grants, providing free education to every Namibian child to ensure that the future generation is educated and have a brighter future.” he said.
Meanwhile, poverty eradication and social welfare minister Doreen Sioka said that for 2022, the day presents an opportunity to review the status of harmful practices affecting children in Namibia by highlighting the issues they face in their daily lives and assessing where the country is in protecting and assisting children who are at risk of being victims of harmful practices.
“Harmful cultural practices include socio-cultural practices, beliefs, and customs that continue to violate the rights of children across the continent and hinder them from fully enjoying their fundamental rights as enshrined in national, regional and international legal frameworks, which Namibia has ratified,” the minister said.
She further said children exposed to harmful practices risk suffering from both physical and mental health breakdowns. “These practices further have a negative impact on children’s dignity, psychosocial, moral integrity and development, participation, health, education, economic and social status.”
Abraham Angula, a Grade 12 learner at Windhoek Gymnasium Private school, told The Villager that this day holds great significance for him.
Angula said this was a day when young Africans took a stance against oppressive regimes where they decided enough was enough and demanded active change.
“These significands come from young African youth oath to be fearless and advocate for the certain changes that we want,” said Angula.
He said that Hector Pieterson stood up and protested against the apartheid Bantu education, which showed that African children have the power to reform laws and request what they want.
Angula said that the voice of the African child holds a significant amount of importance.
Sicilia Ambunda, a second-year Occupation Therapy student at the University of Namibia UNAM, says that this day is significant since it does not only serve as a reminder that the African child is seen and recognised.
She said it is also a day where we look back and reverse to see that the African child has rights.
“There is little or no awareness of what the African child’s rights are, and most of the children are not aware of their rights,” Ambunda tells The Villager.
According to Ambunda, more must be done to ensure that children are aware of their rights, and the public should play a role in ensuring their rights are respected.
“Child labour is an issue which started from the roots. We should go back and see to it that it ends,” she said.
The African Child for this year is celebrated under the theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children”.
The day honours those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need to improve 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 language.
Hundreds of young students were shot, the most famous 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 organisations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realisation of children’s rights in Africa.
For 2014, the theme was chosen returns to the movement’s roots: A child-friendly, quality, free, and compulsory education for all African children.