This post is the sixth in a blog series published in 2020 in the context of collaboration between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), started in 2017.
On June 16, 1976 in Soweto, South Africa, approximately 10,000 students of color marched in a unified column, more than half a mile long, to protest about the poor quality of their education. They demanded the right to be taught in their native language.
Students gathered to peacefully demonstrate, but the crowd soon became intimidated when the police arrived and fired tear gas to disperse them.
We still do not know who gave the first command to shoot, but thanks to testimonials and photos, we know that children were turning and running in all directions, leaving some lying wounded or dead on the road. More than 100 people were killed and over 1,000 injured during the two-week protests.
To celebrate their courage and in memory of those killed, in 1991 the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) established the Day of the African Child.
This year’s theme reflects on ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’ inclusive of solidifying the universal rights of quality education for African children today and tomorrow.
A unique framework: The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
Do you know that Africa is the only continent with a region-specific child rights instrument? The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) was adopted 30 years ago, precisely on July 1, 1990 ,and entered into force on November 29, 1999.
The Charter is a key tool for advancing children’s rights. While building on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ACRWC highlights issues of special importance in the African context.
As explained by Dejo Olowu in his paper “…whereas the Convention generally makes it clear that children are independent subjects and have rights, the Charter stresses the need to include African cultural values and experiences in considering issues pertaining to the rights of the child in Africa.”
We recommend you read Article 11 of the Charter, which is entirely dedicated to the education of the African child and the full realization of this right by the states.
As of June 2019, 44 out of 55 member states of the AU have signed the Charter and 49 have ratified it. We hope that by the end of this year, all AU member states will have ratified this key continental framework, which means they will be formally bound by the terms of the Charter.