In commemoration of the Day of the African Child 2020 and the 30th anniversary of the African Children’s Charter, the African Union hosted a virtual couch talk where high-level policymakers discussed a wide-range of issues fundamental to the welfare of the African child – early childhood development, education as well as safety
It was on June 1, 1990 that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU Assembly), adopted the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) also known as the African Children’s Charter. Akin to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the ACRWC is also an all-inclusive framework that sets out rights and defines universal principles and norms for the status of children.
In a related development, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) was founded in 2001, to among others, promote and protect the rights established by the Children’s Charter. Moreover, in line with paragraph 53 of Agenda 2063 which says: ‘African children shall be empowered through the full implementation of the African Charter on the Rights of the Child,’ in 2017, the AU Assembly adopted Africa’s Agenda for Children 2040: Fostering an Africa fit for Children, which lays out goals related to the rights of children meant to be achieved by 2040.
Consequently, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Charter, the AU Commission’s Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST) and Department of Social Affairs (DSA), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), hosted a couch talk session on June 16 – the Day of the African Child. The high-level couch talk themed ‘Children Today – Youth Tomorrow: Building an Africa Fit for Our Children and Youth,’ discussed a wide-range of issues fundamental to the welfare of the African child i.e family and early childhood development, education and skilling, as well as safety, amongst others.
In her remarks, Commissioner for Social Affairs at the AU Commission, H.E. Amira El Fadil, acknowledged the importance of birth registration as a fundamental right of the African child. “All right starts with birth registration,” she said. “This gives the child an entitlement to all other rights such as access to basic services, claiming of inheritance rights, curbing of child marriage and ensuring age-appropriate treatment by the justice system, as proclaimed under the African Children’s Charter and Aspiration 3 of the 2040 Agenda of the AU.”
Similarly, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology at the AU Commission, H.E (Prof.) Sarah Anyang Agbor, spoke on the minimal approach to child education developed by her department tagged: “Connecting the DOTSS” – in which D stands for Digital Literacy, O – Online Schooling, T- Teachers Development, S – Safety (online and offline) and S- Skill Acquisition. She therefore called on governments, policymakers, parents, teachers and African youths to work collectively towards the realization of the goals of connecting the DOTSS so as to also achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
“I believe by connecting the DOTSS, we would be able to breed African children with the right and appropriate skills, because connecting the DOTSS connects with aspirations of Agenda 2063, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in relation to education,” she argued.
Commissioner Agbor emphasized the importance of communities taking collective responsibility of children’s upbringing and education including instilling in their minds, African norms and values – personal sacrifice, discipline, family values, and respect for teachers. In addition, she underscored the importance of integration of culture in education as a means for achieving quality education for children on the continent. She, however, noted that it was the fundamental responsibilities of parents to ensure their children had good upbringing and education.
In his remarks, Dr Edward Addai, the UNICEF Representative to the AU and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said where ever there was conflict, almost always, there was also hunger, adding that where there was hunger, it was children who were most at risk. “It was reported that global hunger is on the rise after declining for more than two decades, with the UN citing ‘conflict’ as the main reason for that reversal which could occur at either macro or micro levels,” he said.
While discussing the impact of conflict and hunger on child development and education, Dr Addai explained that conflict could either occur at macro level as a result of war, or rather at micro-level, as a result of family conflicts, observing that in either of the scenarios, children suffered the most and for the longest time. These, he said, affects the mental health, physical and psychological safety of the children, thereby hindering their growth, learning and social well-being. He therefore urged parents to make peace in their homes noting that realizing a peaceful Africa will begin from homes.
While speaking about the unprecedented effect of hunger on children’s growth and well-being, the AUC’s Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, H.E Josefa Lionel Sacko, underlined the role of adequate nutrition and food in ensuring quality education among children. Commissioner Sacko, therefore, commended the World Food Program (WFP) for its Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) initiative in Africa which, she said, contributed greatly in addressing menace of malnutrition on the continent.
Sacko also acknowledged the synergistic efforts of the AUC’s three departments namely, Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, which promotes the production of home grown foods; Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology, that ensures the distribution of the food to schools for feeding the children; as well as the Department of Social Affairs, which oversees the eradication of malnutrition on the continent.
This synergistic effort, according to Sacko, had been working tremendously well until the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted their activities. She however said her department was working seriously to ensure social protection of the children so as to avoid losing the productive capacity that will spur the socioeconomic development of the continent in the future.
“Today, the World Food Program (WFP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), are working really closely with the AU, so that our food system is strengthened and made more resilient, so that our population will have access to nutritious food,” said Commissioner Sacko.
In their separate closing remarks and conclusions, participants at the virtual couch talk called on African governments, policymakers, parents, teachers, youths and of course, children themselves, to collaboratively work together towards enhancing children’s education and nutrition as well as the eradication of hunger and conflicts, so as to build an Africa that is truly fit for its children and youths.
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