International Day of the African Child: Is the prophecy becoming a reality

By Elkanah Nyauma

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Today the world is celebrating the International Day of the African Child, 2021. But as this is happening, many questions still remain as to whether enough is being done to attend to the plight of the African child. 

A UK-based think tank in 2016 said Africa’s children will account for 40 percent of the world’s poorest people by 2030.

A report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) also said one in five children in sub-Saharan Africa, or nearly 148 million, will be living on less than $1.90 a day in 2030.

“We’re talking about getting kids into school and tackling the most extreme forms of poverty. This is doable,” said Kevin Watkins, ODI executive director, now working for Save the Children.

“By 2030, ODI estimates that 88 percent of all children living on $1.90 a day will be in sub-Saharan Africa, up from some 50 percent today,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2016.

The Overseas Development Institute added that investment was needed in healthcare, education and cash transfers if we are to minimize poverty and severe inequality and change demographic patterns in sub-Saharan Africa. Watkins recommended that education be key in the reduction of poverty.

Data published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in 2019 on the out-of-school children globally showed that there was little or no progress over more than ten years.

The report showed that in 2018, around 258 million children, youth and adolescents were out of school, an approximate of one sixth of the world’s population of school children between 6 to 17 years old.

This data on out-of-school children revealed that with that rate, one in every six children will be out of primary and secondary school in 2030, and that only six out of ten youngsters will complete their secondary education. 

Out of school young boy in the Kibera slum, Nairobi – Picture | Wikimedia Commons

The findings also indicated a gap between the world’s richest and poorest countries. According to the data, 19% of primary school children, roughly between 6 and 11 years old, are not in school in low-income countries, while high-income countries recorded only 2% of such cases. 

The data also revealed that the gap still grows wider for youth and older children. It indicated that around 61% of all youth between 15 and 17 years are out of school in low-income countries, unlike high-income countries with only 8% of such cases.

Recommendations

We need to understand that every child has the right to enjoy quality education, good health, and to be protected from any harm. Also, every society has a part to play in ensuring more children’s opportunities in life. We must stop denying children their rights. 

As we continue celebrating this historic day, the International Day of the African Child, we need to see it as an opportunity to examine what we are doing to protect the welfare of the African child. It is a good time for African leaders to invest in children and the youth and end harmful practices that deny children their rights. 

Finally, we need to remember that unless urgent steps are taken, many children will never set foot in school. This means it is going to be hard to ensure inclusive quality education and other Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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