International Day Of The African Child

June 22, 2020

This day is celebrated on the 16h of June every year. Children the world over are a vulnerable group and a lot needs to be done to protect them. The world has changed, in the past especially in Africa, a child belonged to the whole community. Any adult was deemed safe enough to take care of a child when the parents were away, or to discipline them when they erred without necessarily seeking the permission of the parents. In return, the children knew that they had many eyes watching, and so they behaved appropriately.

As we followed up the proceedings of this day, I was reminded of my days as a young girl growing up in the village. I lost my mother at a tender age and was brought up by my grandmother. My father could not have managed to take care of a 2-month-old, and my grandmother was more than willing to bring me up. Growing up in the village required resilience. Poverty greeted you everywhere. I remember my school uniform doubled up as my Sunday dress; it was the best piece of clothing I had in my metal box. We endured hard labor at a young age, fetching water and carrying it on our backs in a heavy metal barrel. We had a hill to climb on the way back home. Fetching firewood and carrying it on our backs was a daunting task. Our backs often bled, pricked by the wooden sticks of firewood, and we walked for many kilometers to get it home. The one thing that stuck in my memory most, is that despite all the poverty and hard work, we were a happy lot. I grew up around a lot of cousins. Our uncles were all referred to as ‘dad’ and they had authority over all of us. In the evenings, we roamed from one aunt’s grass thatched hut to the next. By the time we were done, we had eaten dinner at all of the homes (there were around 5 of them), and still, we could never get enough. I guess we were stocking up for the next day.

We didn’t know we were poor; we didn’t know any better. One thing we were assured of was always a warm meal in the night, lunch was unheard of, breakfast was a cup of black tea, even though we had a cow. All the milk from the cow was sold to the local dairy; the money was used to buy seedlings and fertilizer for the farm.

The interesting part is that we turned out okay. We were disciplined, we respected our elders, and we never talked back. When punished, we didn’t sulk and lock ourselves in our rooms (what rooms anyway); we slept on the ground on a polythene piece of paper and a half piece of blanket! Today, as I look back, I can honestly say I had a good life, despite it all. My grandmother doted on me, my uncles and aunties made sure we stayed safe and secure. There were no incidences of child abuse, no early marriages, no FGM in our community.

But today, all that has changed. An adult can go to jail for punishing someone’s child, children answer back and are outright rude. House chores are deemed as punishment. Teenagers have so much freedom and access to the finer things in life. Those in the villages and slums may have a semblance of what we endured growing up and must contend with the insecurity of growing up in today’s more modern world. It is, therefore, up to the parents to realize that times have changed and that children need to be nurtured and protected more than ever as there is a lot of evil in the world today.

Teaching your child morals and good ethics prepares them for a world that is very competitive and unforgiving. Numerous girls have fallen pregnant during the COVID outbreak. Most of these pregnancies are the result of the actions of mature men; men who should know better.

As we celebrate the African child, let us remember we have a responsibility towards all the children that we come across, whether our own or not. Let us be responsible adults so that we can give the children a childhood worth remembering. I remember mine with fond memories.

A child happy and comfortable in my hands. Though I am a stranger to the child, she can feel the love. She is in safe hands. 

Safe and protected. Children require love and care.

Beautifully beaded, but still a child. Not for sale, don’t put a price tag on her.

Run like the wind. Free and happy!

A child carrying a child, sad state of affairs. Protect the girl child.


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