Freedom Mutanda Post Correspondent
In 1991, the Organisation of the African Union, the precursor of the African Union, set aside June 16 to honour the scores of learners who were massacred in 1976 by the apartheid regime in South Africa and raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
The massacre marked the turning point in the struggle for African children’s rights.
There are 1, 8 billion youths between the age of 10 and 24 across the world. This huge number cannot be wished away. If anything, the youth population is growing every day. Therefore every country should ensure that its policies speak to the needs of this population.
As we commemorate the Day of the African Child, it is crucial to break the cycle of poverty through thought-out plans and projects for the youths. These stakeholders include the youths themselves, the business community and Government.
Skills training in the various vocational colleges scattered across the whole country has greatly empowered thousands of youths. These skills will kick-start the careers of many young people.
Realising one’s full potential and reaching self-actualisation (Maslow’s highest level of needs) is everyone’s dream. However, very few reach it. Yet considering the zeal and exuberance of the youths, the sky is the limit.
Zimbabwe’s greatest puzzle is why so many basic products are imported, especially considering that the country has the highest literacy rate in Africa.
Access to capital might solve this puzzle. Government has been playing its part, coming in with loans to fund the youths’ projects. The Empower Bank was specifically established for this reason.
Of late, our institutions of higher learning have been inventing and manufacturing products that have been useful in fighting Covid-19. The skills of the youths must be harnessed to make products that are competitive in the region.
While the Soweto students in the aforementioned uprising were demanding to be taught in their indigenous language, the youths of today have a condescending attitude towards their mother tongue.
While the youths ought to be fighting for the upliftment of their respective languages, they look at the world of academia with Western eyes.
Their world-view is premised on what Uncle Tom say is good. As a result, anyone who uses indigenous languages for communication is looked at with disdain. Fortunately, the Zimbabwean constitution upholds the use of our indigenous languages.
With regards to health issues, the youths need to have access to information. We expect young scientists to give us breakthroughs at a time when the world is fighting Covid-19 and many other ailments.
Madagascar is in the news about its “cure” for Covid-19.
We are told that our very own muzumbani is the very same herb that is making waves in Madagascar.
Our own young researchers have a responsibility to help the nation rise and shine.
Information on sexual reproductive health must also be availed to the youths, especially in light of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Prevention is always better than cure. The same applies to the prevention of water-borne diseases.
Education transforms lives. However, there is need to spare a thought for the 12, 4 million youths who are not in school across the world due to various reasons. Moreover, the girl child is adversely affected.
Research reveals that the situation is even worse for girls in border areas. By the time a class gets to Ordinary Level, more than 70 percent of the girls in the class would have fallen by the wayside due to one reason or the other. That makes for depressing reading.
Australian-based social scientist, Mr Richard Sikoya said, “The girl child is in deep trouble in the border areas as she gets married in her early teens, mostly to boys coming from South Africa and Mozambique who are still green in the area of marriage.
“The girl child needs protection from the community and there is no need for 12-year-olds to get married. We should declare zero tolerance to early or forced child marriages as a nation.’’
But that’s not the only bane affecting African children.
Child labour has been another problem bedevilling many African nations, even though a number of them are signatories of the United Nations Charter which forbids it. In Zimbabwe, Government banned the earn-and-learn system at tea estates. As we commemorate the Day of the African Child, let the authorities ensure that child labour remains a thing of the past.
Africa has been in the throes of conflict in several hotspots such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and South Sudan. Child soldiers have been used and the refugee crises has resulted in young children walking hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres, to go and stay as refugees in host countries.
Zimbabwe hosts refugees at Tongogara Refugee Camp and some of the harrowing stories told by the children there are too ghastly. Peace should be the buzz word for youths to flourish.
These children need emotional support and therefore authorities have a daunting task of dealing with the trauma they have endured.
Youths should be allowed to live without getting entangled in acts of tribalism, regionalism, xenophobia or the armed conflicts that have created the refugee crises in Africa and beyond.
As we commemorate the Day of the African Child, we should contemplate on how to tackle youth empowerment in all spheres, poverty and homelessness.
We should also appreciate the role of the youths in the politics of the day, just as the Soweto youths took it upon themselves to right the wrongs that the apartheid regime had perpetuated since 1652.
The youths have always been the trendsetters.