20 June 2007

Africa: The African Child


Lagos — Last Saturday, June 16, 2007, was remembered across the African continent as the "Day of the African Child." With its root in the 1976 massacre of children in Soweto, South Africa, during the evil days of apartheid in that part of the continent, June 16 every year has come to be a day set aside by the African Union (then Organization of African Unity (OAU), to enable its member-nation governments spare a thought about their children, their welfare conditions, their future and their prospects in a world, where they would not only simply exist, but indeed, compete with their peers on other continents.

Going by the charter on the African Child, the various governments are obligated to pursue programmes, policies and projects that would enhance the status of the African Child. The charter mandates African governments to make available the basic essentials of life to the African child. These essentials include food, housing, clothing, health care and education and to safeguard the same child from abuse, exploitation deprivation and inhuman treatment or conditions. They are to also avail them the opportunity of being heard and seen.

Sadly, the lot of the African Child has not significantly improved over the years. Indeed, the African child has continued to be ravaged by hunger, disease and poverty. The African child has also been subjected to deprivations, abuse and dehumanization.

Today, it is only in Africa that children of school age are denied the right to education and instead, are deployed to hawking, are sold into slavery, forced into soldiering and domestic service.

It is only in Africa that the Child is denied adequate health care services and comfortable accommodation among such things that make for quality living and welfare conditions.

As it is, the African Child ranks highest in the global index on human trafficking, child labour, early marriage, child soldiering, malnourishment and the out-of-school syndrome as well as all other negative human conditions that still make life on the continent "brutish, nasty and short."

African governments are to blame for all these anti-social and economic conditions confronting the African Child. The reasons for the blame are simple and many.

Indeed, African governments have failed to provide the African Child the necessary infrastructure, facilities and training to keep healthy, have access to quality education and develop properly and normally like their peers elsewhere in the world.

Yet, we know that the condition of the African Child could be bettered and indeed, put at a level and scale that frees him/her from the pains and agonies of the present.

Simply put, African governments would do well to be more forthright with their people and strive to plug all loopholes from where public funds sip into private hands and pockets. In fact, the element of corruption in the conduct of government business in Africa can hardly make for meaningful development on the continent.

We, therefore, challenge African governments to do more in the area of curbing corruption in their various states.

We are also persuaded to challenge the governments of the West to be morally bound by the fact that providing a safe haven for stolen monies from Africa's corrupt leaders equally amounts to corruption.

Come to think of it, if such corrupt leaders become aware that they may run into trouble siphoning stolen wealth to the West, it would be only commonsensical, albeit, reasonable that they would think twice before pillaging their peoples' commonwealth. We, therefore, implore those countries that had in the past served as safe haven for stolen funds from Africa and those of them that are still currently husbanding these funds to stop the practice. Such monies, if returned to Africa would, doubtless, enhance the welfare of the African Child.

Such stolen funds could be used to build industries and create jobs for the parents of African children, who could not be provided for due to unemployment. Needless to say that unemployment, occasioned by the greed of African leaders, is part of the problems confronting the continent which have been impacting negatively on children.

We also urge politicians on the continent to keep to the rules of the game. It is a fact that the wars currently ravaging the continent are all politically-motivated and consequences of the inordinate quest for power. Putting in place transparent political systems' and democratic structures where all segments of the society, including ethnic minorities are availed the opportunity to participate in deciding who rules them are imperative for peace and political stability in the region. The African child has gone through several war situations these past years and should be spared the agonies of future occurrences.

We enjoin all well-meaning governments, individuals and non-governmental institutions and groups to spare some thoughts for the African children especially regarding how best their future could be guaranteed in a globalized world, where quality health, quality education and competitiveness are the critical factors for progress, development and growth.

Perhaps and most importantly, African leaders, government institutions and NGOs should strive to make stealing of public funds unprofitable for those whose responsibility it is to manage these funds for the greater good of the people.

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