Commentaries and Analyses Index

Plight Of The African Child

LUSAKA, June 17 - Children should be treasured as our continent's, and indeed, the world's most important resource.

Sadly, in Africa there is no denying that they have been our most important resource - the children - who have had to bear the harshest brunt of both the social and political challenges confronting us.

It is the children who have suffered the effects of being denied access to even basic health facilities, basic education and other social amenities. It is the children whose rights don't seem to matter to those in governments on our continent. It has been the children whose lives have been disturbed to a state of hopelessness after being orphaned by the ravaging HIV/AIDS. It is our children who are now heading households from very tender ages and providing for their siblings.

It has been our valuable children who have suffered the worst in wars and various atrocities that have plagued nearly all corners of our continent. They have lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and in the many political clashes.

Certainly things are not well for our cherished resource.

But as the continent yesterday commemorated yet another annual Day of the African Child, the special day that remembers the innocent souls of school children who died in the heartless massacre in 1976, it is time that everyone took stock of their contribution towards making our continent better for our children. Yes, South Africa managed to defeat the apartheid regime with unrelenting determination from even the youths whose innocent lives were lost.

But the commemoration of this special day goes further to allow the children the chance to express their views on matters pertaining to their rights which have sadly been neglected.

It is true that in Zambia, governments - both under the UNIP and MMD reign - have spent more billions on the luxuries and other non-essential items than on our children.

One of our main tasks is and will always be that of developing the new generations, of giving our young people ever more attention, for them to survive and grow, and also to instil in them a solid consciousness, a profound sense of duty to their country and humanity.

There's need to prepare our young people for the world of the future, which won't be an easy world to live in.

It is completely inconsistent on our government's part to acknowledge the severe difficulties and complex problems our people are being subjected to which are clearly created by its neo-liberal economic policies sponsored by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund but stand idly by in the face of problems of the kind our young people are facing today.

The responsibility of bringing up and educating children in a nation like ours where over 80 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty cannot be left to the family alone. It has to be a collective responsibility of the nation. After all, children are not only born in a family, they are born in a community, in a nation.

Our governments need to invest in children. The governments on the continent need to start investing in education and health care including critical measures such as immunisation programmes.

The issue of street children and orphans should not be left to the market forces, it needs to be addressed by the political and civic authorities of our countries. There's need to address the plight of our vulnerable children.

In a country like ours where poverty is so high, even without AIDS, there is vulnerability of children.

What democracy, human rights or indeed Christianity can Zambians really talk about when close to a million children have to beg or are homeless and scrounge for a living in the streets or doing other spectacular things to make a living?

What democracy, human rights or indeed Christianity can Zambians really talk about when one looks at the numbers of sick children who don't receive any medical attention and the numbers of children who are illiterate?

Think of child prostitution which is becoming generalised in our country.

Let us all stop and think about what future we are preparing for our children. Let us take time to reflect on the plight of the African child.

There, certainly, is need to reaffirm our daily commitment to addressing the plight of our children. After all, the future of our nations, our continents and our world, will be the one we will have created for our children.

The Post / allAfrica Global Media

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