Hunger for more drives African child

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - COMMENT -

FORTY-one years ago, the black con­scious­ness that had been seething for decades in the hearts of South African youths man­i­fested in Soweto, South Africa.

For de­mand­ing a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the stu­dents were mas­sa­cred by the apartheid gov­ern­ment in what has come to be known as the Soweto Mas­sacre.

June 16, 1976 might not ring any bell to many peo­ple but it is an im­por­tant day in the his­tory of this con­ti­nent.

This marked the birth of the Day of the African Child, which is com­mem­o­rated ev­ery year on June 16th across Africa.

The com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Day of the African Child co­in­cided with the of­fi­cial open­ing of the 25th ses­sion of the Ju­nior Par­lia­ment in Harare yes­ter­day. This year’s com­mem­o­ra­tions were run­ning un­der the theme “The 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment for Chil­dren in Africa: Ac­cel­er­at­ing pro­tec­tion, em­pow­er­ment and equal op­por­tu­nity”.

Sadly, those who lost their lives dur­ing the Soweto Mas­sacre must be turn­ing in their graves be­cause some of the is­sues that they died for are yet to be ad­e­quately dealt with decades later. The rights of their kin con­tinue to be tram­pled upon in this lib­er­ated con­ti­nent.

As the Ju­nior Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans poured their hearts out dur­ing a ses­sion which was broad­cast live on na­tional tele­vi­sion yes­ter­day, pol­icy mak­ers lis­tened at­ten­tively.

That the lead­ers of this na­tion — Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe, Vice Pres­i­dents Emmerson Mnan­gagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, to­gether with Cab­i­net min­is­ters and Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans— graced the event to lis­ten to the ju­nior Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans is heart warn­ing and en­cour­ag­ing.

It was not all for the cam­eras, the is­sues raised by the ju­nior Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans must be ad­dressed ex­pe­di­tiously.

Early child mar­riages seem to be the hottest is­sue where the chil­dren are con­cerned. The statis­tics are as­tound­ing. In a 2014 sur­vey by Zim­babwe’s Na­tional Statis­tics Agency, one in three women aged be­tween 20 to 49 re­ported that they mar­ried be­fore age 18 while an es­ti­mated 4 per­cent marry be­fore age 15.

The Gov­ern­ment needs to tighten the le­gal screws on child mar­riages. Chil­dren need le­gal guid­ance and pro­tec­tion when it comes to mak­ing such ma­jor life de­ci­sions.

There­fore the align­ment of mar­riage laws with the con­sti­tu­tion is long over­due as dis­par­i­ties be­tween the laws and the supreme law of the land has been the ma­jor driver of early mar­riages. Law­mak­ers are cur­rently seized with this and must move with speed.

Gov­ern­ment should also act swiftly in the de­liv­ery of ed­u­ca­tion. The coun­try has been do­ing well in that area. In fact, Zim­babwe is ranked the most lit­er­ate coun­try in Africa at 90, 7 per­cent.

How­ever, be­ing con­tent with the sta­tus quo is recipe for fail­ure. More is al­ways bet­ter.

As rightly noted by for­mer Child Pres­i­dent Sa­muel Nyarenda in his open­ing speech two years ago, there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween ed­u­ca­tion, in­fant mor­tal­ity, ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity, poverty and child mar­riages.

The more ed­u­cated the Zim­bab­wean child gets, the more we will quell all the other prob­lems that are plagu­ing them. An ed­u­cated mind is an eman­ci­pated mind.

The cur­rent pres­i­dent, Takudzwa Mhuru, also makes in­ter­est­ing sub­mis­sions with re­gards to ed­u­ca­tion.

In this era of Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics (Stem); we risk push­ing the other equally cru­cial dis­ci­plines to the pe­riph­ery.

“Zim­babwe is not go­ing to be built by sci­en­tists only,” Mhuru thun­ders in an­other sec­tion of this pub­li­ca­tion.

“We need law mak­ers from the stu­dents do­ing arts sub­jects and ac­coun­tants to man­age the econ­omy from those do­ing com­mer­cial sub­jects. Stu­dents do­ing non-sci­ence sub­jects should also be sup­ported by Gov­ern­ment the same way sci­ence stu­dents are be­ing sup­ported through Stem.”

The African chil­dren have spo­ken. The African lead­ers have heard. Re­sults are im­mi­nent.

Africa as a whole and Zim­babwe in par­tic­u­lar must be ap­plauded for the strides it has made so far in en­sur­ing that there is fruit­ful di­a­logue be­tween chil­dren and pol­icy mak­ers.

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