The theme of justice for children in the commemoration of the Day of the African Child, 16 June, should spur African Union member states to do something about the plight of the children.
We will just touch on the basic human rights that the children on the continent should be enjoying but that they find very difficult to access.
We shall refer to the right to health, education, protection from the law and right to safe habitat. Due to the poor economic status of their parents, for many children access to quality health remains a pipe dream.
This is the reality for thousands if not millions of children even in this country where health costs have gone beyond the reach of many. Just this week we had reports of five people dying from diarrhoea in Luveve suburb in Bulawayo, with four of them being children. This goes to show the level of vulnerability of children in times of disease outbreaks, especially against the background that about 60 people were admitted to hospital late due to a lack of money for consultation fees.
While we laud the authorities for the waiver of the fees to save lives we believe this may not be sustainable since it does not get to the root of the problem that tends to limit access to health for poor families. This comes also as Covid-19 has wreaked havoc, destroying people’s livelihoods since they can no longer freely go about their daily business of fending for their families.
On the education front, this will set us back greatly in that with the high inflation that has pushed school fees up, it would be difficult for many children to go back to school, and many more to complete their secondary studies, let alone tertiary education. Left exposed without much education, the children become vulnerable and prone to early marriages, abuse, and in many instances poor housing worsens their vulnerability.
We believe nations should not pay lip service to sustainable development that ensures equitable economic growth that would make access to most of these rights easier to achieve. While the 1976 Soweto uprising might have been over the quality of education, today’s fight could be over access to education that would then improve chances of the recipients accessing the other rights. It is only when there is deliberate facilitation of broad enjoyment of basic rights that even the children will feel justice is being served.