Editorial Comment: Hunger for more drives African child

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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