Celebrating Africa's Treasure: Children

The Day of the African Child is celebrated on June 16th in recognition of the Sharpeville Massacre, which took place in 1960 when South African children and youth were shot as they took to the streets in protest of the inferior quality of their education. They were also demanding that the schools use local languages as the medium of instruction.

The African Union (then called the Organization of African Unity) dedicated June 16th as a day to honor the courage and determination of the young people who lost their lives.

Courage to stand up for their rights against the oppressive system of apartheid.

Determination to get what they deserve: an opportunity to get a level of education that would allow them to develop skills and knowledge so they too could lift themselves out of poverty.

That was no small act for children living under one of the most repressive governments in recent history.

All too often we spend our time lamenting all the challenges that Africa’s children face. The list is endless. It can be overwhelming to think of all the odds that are stacked against so many children across Africa.

But yet millions survive.

While we must not and cannot forget what still needs to be done to nurture and protect children in Africa, we must not forget to celebrate their strengths and their resilience.

Strength as exemplified by the will to find a way when, for all intents and purposes, it looks like there isn’t one.

Resilience manifested as the ability to overcome tragedy and fear, heal from pain and loss and to hold on to hope when you don’t know when your next meal will come from.

This is what millions of children in Africa do. Every day.

Alone, in pairs, and in groups. They show courage and determination. They show resilience.

In spite of all the challenges they face, their will to live, to fully experience and express life remains stronger than any inclination to give up.

So today, we celebrate the millions of children of Africa who live a life that demands more of them than it does of most people.

And we say to them:

You are brave!

You are strong!

You are precious!

We salute you!

The theme for this year’s commemoration is, “Planning and budgeting for the well being of the child: A collective responsibility.”