UN International Day of the African Child: Seizing our right to child-friendly, quality education

Have you ever thought of what it means to be a child in Africa?
... An opinion piece through the eyes of the African child

Opinion piece

16 Jun 2014 | Africa
Credit: WaterAid/Suzanne Porter

Today, June 16, 2014, our beloved Africa celebrates the UN International Day of the African Child.

First introduced in South Africa in memoriam to the victims of an apartheid-era bloodbath of Soweto children, we now reflect upon the rights of all Africa's children.

In apartheid times, the children were killed for claiming their right to education.

Today, we want to claim the same right for Africa’s children. Attaining their right to education requires basic services, including safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

The international NGO WaterAid this month launched a global campaign, 'To Be A Girl.' It is an interesting topic which indeed has inspired us to also ask 'what does it mean to be an African child?'

To us, it simply means living in a continent where 327 million people are without access to safe water and 610 million are without access to basic sanitation.

In our dear Sub-Saharan Africa, about 42 children die every hour - that is, 375,000 per year - from diarrhoea. The little African girl fully bears the burden of water collection at the expense of education or playing with friends.

Girls in schools without safe water and toilets miss many class hours - and and you cannot blame them for missing classes. If you disagree, then answer this question: As a school girl, what would you do during your period in a school without water or toilet facilities?

Improved water and sanitation services are instrumental in addressing the number of children who miss school due to diseases. There is also a ripple effect. Educated mothers bear fewer children and so can better afford to meet their needs, including education. Better schools also improve the working conditions of teachers and other staff and make them more motivated, more satisfied and more able to perform their jobs well.

On this day, as African children, this is our message to our duty bearers: provide us with safe and reliable water and separate latrines for boys and girls, to help us be healthy and go to school. Our future depends on it.