Day of the African Child

17 06 2011

African ChildSTATEMENT BY NANA KONADU AGYEMAN-RAWLINGS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 20TH INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD – THURSDAY JUNE 16, 2011

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the International Day of the African Child, a day originally set aside by the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, to honour the memory of hundreds of school children from Soweto who were shot protesting against the poor quality of education by the then Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Today the International Day of the African Child is also marked to raise awareness of the continued need for improvement in the education provided to the African child and emphasise the need for protection and guarantees for a better future for our children.
This year the Day is being marked under the theme: “All together for Urgent Actions in Favour of Street Children.”

Statistics indicate that there are an estimated 30 million street children on the continent. This includes children who are suffering on our streets begging, selling petty items, pilfering and sleeping in front of buildings at night, exposed to the vagaries of the weather as well as unscrupulous adults.

My definition of the street child includes children whose parents are unable to afford an education for them despite the fee-free education policy of the state and have lent them out as servants or even slaves to unscrupulous artisans and other small-scale business owners.

While the state has to put in place mechanisms to ensure that every child receives the requisite education and does not feel inferior in school to pupils from so-called, well-endowed homes, parents have a huge responsibility in ensuring that children are given their due as far as a decent living is concerned.

It is unfair to the child when as parents we fail to plan their growth in terms of education and other facets of life. It is more worrying when some parents actually give birth to children and use them as bait for economic sustenance from other members of society.

On this special day for the African child I enjoin all parents in all economic circumstances to appreciate the fact that a child represents the success or failure of our country. We have a responsibility to give birth to children we can afford to look after to adulthood. We commit a crime against humanity if we fail to bring up our children to be responsible citizens in society.

That responsibility goes beyond sending the child to school but also catering for their most important needs of care and attention and making sure that their moral training is not left to some of their peers who may themselves require parental support.

In Ghana in particular the increasing number of cases of sexual exploitation of children is very worrying. There has been a frightening upsurge in the number of sexual offences against children.

Our security agencies also need to be more adept and sensitive to the plight of victims. We still have many cases of victims who have reported sexual assault cases to the police and have been reprimanded either for encouraging the assault through their dressing or the time of night they were out and about. While there may be serious concerns about parental neglect no one has the right to take sexual advantage of a child or for that matter an unwilling adult. I thus call on our security agencies to continue to educate their officers to show open arms to all victims, so perpetrators of sexual violence can be apprehended and prosecuted.

News of four children being burnt by a fire outbreak in Accra on Monday June 13 and another three dying in a similar incident at Pease in the Bosumtwi District of the Ashanti Region the following day, further exposes the laxity of parental control that has engulfed our society.

In both incidents the parents of the victims were not within the vicinity of the accident to serve as a first point of rescue. As parents we have a huge responsibility not to leave our children at home alone or unsupervised and assume that once they are asleep one can sneak out and run a quick errand.

Let us unite as a society to discuss the rights of children, appreciate the dynamism that permeates modern society and endeavour to be alert in protecting and nurturing our children to be responsible leaders of tomorrow.

Thank you.

Signed: Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings

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