Rumbidzai Ngwenya Features Writer
Tomorrow, June 16, is the Day of the African Child (DAC).
As the country joins the international community in celebrating this day, children’s welfare in Zimbabwe remains topical.
Organisations that cater for children’s rights, welfare and empowerment, have, during this time, urged the Government to prioritise children whenever development programmes and policies are made for implementing Agenda 2030.
Their concern resonates well with this year’s theme for DAC: “Leave no child behind for Africa’s development”, which builds on the momentum created by the DAC 2017 theme: “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity”
It implies that African countries should ensure “no child is left behind” in the drive towards sustainable economic development of the continent. This includes provision of quality education and health among other things.
To provide a platform for youths to express their concerns, the Zimbabwe Youth Council and the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation will tomorrow join the Junior Parliament, in celebrating DAC.
Since the Junior Parliament serves as a leadership development and advocacy arm of the Government on the rights and welfare of children and also to facilitate participation of children and young people in governance issues. They have the mandate to address issues that face Zimbabwean child with the aim of improving children’s welfare.
The commemorations will be held tomorrow at the Harare City Sports Centre, in conjunction with the official opening of 26th Session of the Junior Parliament.
The session is another timely moment to take stock of the progress made and outstanding challenges towards full realisation of the rights of young people.
President Mnangagwa is expected to be the guest of honour, and Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, Government officials and civic society organisations will also be present at the occasion.
Facilitators of the event believe that these commemorations hold much importance in children’s lives and the future of Africa.
The day will be a perfect one to lobby for developmental initiatives in both education and health among others.
Zimbabwe Youth Council assistant director, Youth Programming and Public Relations, Mr Tanzikwa Guranungo said the platform to be provided tomorrow was essential for children to bring to light challenges they face, which include child marriages and access to education.
“As an organisation in pursuit of youth empowerment and participation, child welfare remains central,” said Guranungo.
“We take this opportunity to lobby for our cause and push for children’s concerns for development.”
Lobbyists also seek to give children a chance to pursue the alignment of laws where necessary and adoption of policies in their favour.
“After young people, through the Junior Parliament, submit their issues, the President and his Cabinet Ministers in attendance are expected to respond to all the issues raised.
“We are also aiming at bringing the policymakers to terms with children’s experiences, concerns, fears, recommendations and to put into place systems for children’s benefit.
“This is a perfect chance for interaction between youths and the President,” he said.
The organisers also seek to offer full support to the Government of Zimbabwe.
Speaking on behalf of children, Junior Council Mayor in Harare Elton Phiri acknowledged the need to improve the education sector.
“As we celebrate DAC, let’s take this as an opportunity to raise awareness of the ongoing need to improve the education of children living across Africa.
“Education is the key to development. There are a lot of children who are out of school for a lot of reasons, including poverty. Educating children lifts them out of poverty; and every child, especially girls, should have access to education.
“More work needs to be done to ensure that all children are receiving quality education,” said Phiri.
He believes a sound education system will also reduce the scourge of child marriages.
“Child marriage is rampant, but if we keep these children at school the dilemma could be solved.”
This year’s commemorations will bring together children from across the country to discuss and share experiences on issues that affect them to ensure development in Africa, specifically Zimbabwe.
More than 10 000 children are expected to participate at the official opening of the Junior Parliament and the commemorations of the Day of the African Child.
At least 30 000 children are also expected to participate in provincial commemorations as provinces will also celebrate the day, and the provincial leadership is also expected to interact with the children and take note of their concerns.
Annually, DAC is celebrated to commemorate the 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa.
On this day, pupils who marched in protest against the poor quality of education in South Africa were massacred by the apartheid regime.
The disaster saw scores of pupils dying and many injured.
Ever since 1991, when the African Union Assembly designated June 16 as a day for the celebration of the African Child, the day has been celebrated annually.
Objectives of this year’s commemorations are:
To provide a platform for the children of Zimbabwe to communicate with the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
To provide a platform for children to bring to the fore challenges faced by young people across the country and a quick alignment to all laws relating to children.
To offer their opinion and share their experiences with the executive.
Lobby Government to adopt various policies already developed and awaiting Government approval.
Offer full support to the Govern