FORTY-FOUR years ago, the black consciousness that had been simmering in the hearts of South African youths manifested in Soweto, South Africa, as the young people demanded a better education system through a series of demonstrations.
As a result, hundreds of students were massacred by the apartheid government during the Soweto uprising.
This unfortunate incident marked the birth of the Day of the African Child, which is commemorated across Africa every year since 1991 on June 16 in remembrance of those who perished while pursuing a better life.
While June 16, 1976 might not ring any bell in many people’s minds, it is an important day in the history of this continent because it highlights the issues that are an albatross around the necks of Africa’s young people (Africa’s future) and the need to address them.
The issues that affect the young people in South Africa are the same that affect those in Zimbabwe and everywhere else in Africa, hence the need for this holistic approach.
Sadly, those who lost their lives during the Soweto Massacre must be turning in their graves because decades later, some of the issues that they died for are yet to be adequately dealt with.
Early child marriages seem to be the hottest issue where children are concerned.
The statistics are astounding. According to Unicef in a report that was last updated in February 2020, 11 percent of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are married before they turn 15, while 35 percent get married by the age of 18.
While the scenario is slightly better for their male counterparts, 4 percent of them get married by the age of 18.
It is encouraging to note that Zimbabwe is making great strides in addressing this ugly scourge.
In 2016, the Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages, so that no one may enter into any marriage before the age of 18.
The ruling includes marriages under the Customary Marriages Act, which previously had no minimum age requirement and was being exploited to perpetuate child marriages.
However, the Government still needs to further tighten the legal screws on child marriages.
Children need legal guidance and protection when it comes to making such major life decisions and they are still being forced or manipulated into marriage despite the laws that govern the land.
Several cases of child marriages, forced marriages and statutory rape are often swept under the carpet as families opt to receive compensation and settle the issues without involving law enforcement agents.
Communities should step up to ensure they watch over the children and report whenever the law is breached.
With regards to the delivery of education,Government should act swiftly in light of Covid-19, which is threatening the viability of the education system as we know it.
The country has been doing really well in the education sector, with Zimbabwe being ranked the most literate country in Africa at 90, 7 percent.
These gains must not be reversed during this time when schools are closed indefinitely.
Rather, they need to be preserved through e-learning.
However, while the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education introduced an e-learning based curriculum months ago, challenges that are slowing down the adoption of technology in education include the teachers’ inadequate professional training, teachers’ resistance to change, inadequate network infrastructure and expensive data, among others.
Measures need to be put in place to ensure that learners are not disadvantaged. As schools continue to transition towards digital teaching and learning, many educators are playing catch-up and are learning how to incorporate these new tools within their curriculum.
It is crucial that we invest heavily in the education sector because there is a correlation between education, poverty and child marriages; hence the need to ensure that our young people stay in school for as long as possible.
The more educated the Zimbabwean child gets, the more we will quash all the other problems that are plaguing them. An educated mind is an emancipated mind.