The Sunday Mail
Below we publish the transcript of a speech delivered by Child President, Mr Innocent Chikwanda, during the official opening of the 26th Junior Parliament Session at the City Sports Centre in Harare yesterday.
Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen;
Comrades and friends.
I am overwhelmed by joy, and humbled by the support and trust you have bestowed upon me. This same trust has been bestowed upon you, honourable members, by the children of this great nation, Zimbabwe.
Therefore, we share this joy today.
Allow me to thank you, honourable members of the Junior Parliament, for electing me to be your President at the peaceful, free and fair elections held at the Harare Institute of Technology.
Your Excellency, the Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe is a great opportunity for young people to express their views, to share their experiences and propose interventions that will make child and youth development efforts achievable.
As children, sometimes we may not know what the solutions are, we may not even know what the problems are. But when we are engaged, we can advise how messages and programmes can reach us, how they can influence us and how they can make an impact in the lives of children across the country.
The Junior Parliament, therefore, provides Government with that great opportunity to share with the young people of Zimbabwe ways to make Zimbabwe great.
This year’s theme of the Day of the African Child commemorations is “Leave no child behind for Africa’s development”. We adopt it as our theme for the year, and as our theme at this official opening of the 26th Junior Parliament Session. This is an ever befitting theme because upon this principle, the Junior Parliament was created. Indeed to leave no child behind is the principle of this great country as we forge ahead towards making Zimbabwe a middle- income economy by 2030.
Honourable members, allow me to hasten and say our country is not exempted from the problems that bedevil any world of the living. We have poor households in which children suffer the most deprivations. We have sick children whose development is hampered by pain and discomfort. We have children with disabilities who still face discrimination.
We have communities which are still lagging behind in terms of social services such as schools, health facilities and the like. We are still to reach everyone with ICT in schools, electricity and water. Your Excellency, these problems are not new to us; more so, we are not oblivious of the economic lag of the past decade.
Your Excellency, child abuse is still rampant, including child marriages. And the law sometimes lets children down, especially when they seek legal recourse. Your Excellency, it is critical that the Children’s Act, some sections of the Criminal law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Education Act, the Guardianship of Minors Act, the Births and Deaths Registration Act amongst other child protection laws, be aligned to the Constitution of Zimbabwe which in itself is a very progressive legislation.
As we usher in a new season, we want to become the foot soldiers, no longer the voice crying out for help. We, the children of Zimbabwe, want to become part and parcel of the new dispensation’s efforts to achieve all that must be achieved, and regain all that which was lost.
We owe it to the great men and women of Zimbabwe who continuously put their lives on the line to make Zimbabwe free and will evidently do anything to restore Zimbabwe. Your Excellency, if you remove the hindrances affecting us, the children of Zimbabwe will make you proud in every sphere.
Having said that Madam Speaker, honourable President of the Senate, honourable members, we are indebted to Government for the progress made, especially in this new dispensation. I would like to applaud you, Your Excellency, for I am reliably informed that the distribution of text books by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has begun, with thousands of text books having been distributed.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care launched the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination campaign targeting girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years. HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer among women and girls. Government also recently launched the School Health Policy and Child Friendly Climate Policy. As noted by Honourable David Parirenyatwa, Your Excellency, at the launch of School Health Policy, Government needs to move with speed to operationalise this important and ground-breaking policy through providing the necessary guidelines, tools and the supportive environment it requires.
I have also noticed that Government has increased focus on the creative arts, sports, vocational training and restoration of our heritage. We applaud this move by Government because not all our young people are headed for academic-related careers.
The recent ground-breaking ceremony to build a multi-purpose state-of-the art stadium in Marange, a rural set-up, is a set in the right direction Your Excellency. It gets a huge nod from the children of Zimbabwe. The same goes for the ground-breaking ceremony for the establishment of a vocational training centre in Mbire district at Mahuwe.
However, Your Excellency, these important institutions are not in every district. We need them to be easily accessed by our communities, especially in the remote areas of our country.
Your Excellency, the renaming of army barracks and the thrust to ensure that we restore our heritage has struck the right code in young people. It is an important aspect, especially for children our age. We do not want to forget our heritage. Your Excellency, children these days know more about foreign heroes and are quick to identify themselves with so-called super heroes when we have our own super heroes in Jason “Ziyapapa” Moyo, Josiah “Magama” Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo and Nikita Mangena, just to mention but a few.
Your Excellency, Madam Speaker, honourable President of the Senate, we thank the Government of Zimbabwe for these and all other initiatives to ensure that young people get the right moulding and protection.
A special thanks goes to Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa. Recently, she established the Angel of Hope Foundation.
The Foundation is about standing up and taking charge of our destiny. The core of its activities is the commitment to create a better future for children irrespective of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or economic status. Thus, leaving no child behind for Africa’s development. We look forward to more initiatives such as these from all corners of the country.
We would like to thank you, Your Excellency, and your Government, for your perennial support which has afforded us this great opportunity. We also thank the UN family, particularly UNICEF, the civil society and the corporate world for supporting our programmes.
I thank you and hereby commend these issues to your consent and officially open this 26th Session of the Junior Parliament.