Deborah is a second-year student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. As a former sponsored child with Plan International, she has a keen interest in issues around children’s and girls’ rights and is a strong defender of human rights. On the occasion of the International Day of the African Child, she writes this blog to ask; “what does it means to be an African child?”.
Growing up in Africa is unpredictable. There are moments where you feel like giving up and other times, you are inspired to go on. At the centre of this is the African child; the innocent Black child who is struggling to find their feet in the midst of the ancestral savannahs.
Africa, cradle of humanity, haven of proud warriors is a beautiful continent with beautiful people and children with equally beautiful dreams.
Take the case of ten-year-old Wuntiti who lives in the northern part of Ghana. Wuntiti aspires to be a journalist yet he has to walk for miles to go to school. He dreams of becoming a reporter to cover stories on such issues so they can get help.
12-year-old Naa Afi dreams of becoming an architect someday, but her father is strongly against the idea. He believes such professions are for boys only.
Young Adzo yearns to be a fashion designer. Yet her parents believe she is worth much more than “someone who sews clothes”.
Somewhere on the coast, Serwaa assists her old grandmother in selling fish because she can’t continue her education to become the doctor she dreams of.
These instances shows the profile diversity and different kinds of obstacles the African child has to go through before they realise their dreams. The dreams of these four children and every other African child out there has to go through the mill and provided they are determined and resilient enough, those dreams may see the light of day.
The average child aspires to become someone, something and depending on the environment they find themselves in, that dream may come true or die at a point.
This is because opportunities and privileges for such disadvantaged children vary from country to country. The child in Sub Saharan Africa may not have the same opportunities as the one in West Africa and even on an individual country basis, the child living in a small village in northern Ghana does not have the same opportunities and privileges as those in the urban and cosmopolitan southern Ghana.
In realising every dream, the availability of resources is an essential factor. For many countries the opposite is true. Education facilities are either under-resourced or non-existent. Ghana for instance does not have active community libraries in many districts across the country.
Furthermore, the importance of technology in education cannot be overemphasised. For most African countries, it took the global coronavirus pandemic for governments and educational institutions to realise the need for a technological upgrade in our educational systems.
In order to contain the spread of the virus, all public gatherings have been suspended indefinitely, schools included. The only available alternative to keep students engaged is online learning. Another struggle for African children who, in majority, do not have access to digital tools.
Due to the fact that most educational institutions do not have the capacity and resources, most students have been left idle at home. By virtue of the underperforming educational systems in Africa, the talents and energies of the youth are poorly harnessed.
Admittedly, some governments and educational institutions are working hard to improve the state of basic education but there’s still significant work to be done.
Considering the pace at which the world is evolving, the young African would have to put in double effort, an unwavering commitment and determination to see their dreams come true. That is the story of the African child. Every day is a battle against all odds to become someone better.
Despite the numerous obstacles the African child has to face in their bid to realise his or her dream, some have been successfull and are now role models and mentors for many an African child: Nelson Mandela, Koffi Annan, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, etc.
The resilience, hard work and determination of such people is the light at the end of the tunnel to all those who look up to them. However, these are just the visible tip of the iceberg.
For many, the struggle continues their whole life long, just for the fact that they are Black, or they are of African origin. Millions of very able Africans still don’t find it easy even when they have been exposed to better education systems in the Western world.
Is it a conspiracy against Africans? Resilience and struggle in childhood, resilience and struggle in adulthood? Definitely “No” I want to believe so. I shout to the whole world, “Please tell me it is no”!
As the theme of this year’s Day of the African indicates – “Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa", it is time the world offers the African child and all African people the justice, equality and equity deserved as a fundamental right.