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International Day of the African Child: 16 June 2011

International Day of the African Child: 16 June 2011

Today, the International Day of the African Child is being celebrated all over the world. The thousands of black African students, who bravely stood up and fought for their rights, will be remembered and honoured.

Fighting in the face of adversity and standing up for your rights knowing you will face opposition, violence and conflict is brave, courageous and honourable. 

The Organisation of African Unity first celebrated this day on the 16th June, 1991 and it has been celebrated, worldwide, every year since. 

Thirty-five years ago, in Soweto, South Africa, over 10,000 black students marched over a mile to protest against their inferior education under the apartheid regime.  They were met by violence and open gun fire - thousands were injured and over 176 were brutally killed. 

However, their lives were not taken in vain, for it was their plight that challenged years of inferiority, injustice and discrimination, not just in South Africa but all over the continent. The day also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement in the education provided to African children.

SOS Children has been working in Africa for 40 years. To mark this day and show our continual commitment to supporting this great nation, SOS is holding a child’s right exhibition which will focus on the importance of education and schools. 

The event will take place in Nairobi today (16th June) and it will be attended by child rights organisations, local government officials and local schools.  It will highlight the need to educate children on their right to life, their survival and development.  It will also advocate for the developing of laws and establishing of government structures to ensure child survival, development and protection.

While the standard of education across Africa has improved there are still thousands of children who do not receive any form of education.  School fees are a major barrier for many African children.  Money is needed not only for tuition, but also indirect costs such as compulsory uniforms, textbook fees and community contributions that make it near impossible for children and their families.  Fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In poor families, children are often trapped into working to provide for their families, leaving little time or money for their education. 

Across Africa SOS Children run 111 SOS Schools and 128 SOS Nurseries, which have given an education to many thousands of African children over the years. Currently, over 50,000 children attend an SOS School, and over 10,000 children go to an SOS Nursery. In Kenya, SOS Children run four SOS Children's Villages, including one in the capital Nairobi, and four SOS Schools.  SOS Children has been working in Kenya since 1975, and opened its most recent Children's Village in Meru in 2006.

You can read how Dickson, 16, was supported by SOS Children and given the opportunity to improve his future through education.