By Elkass I.L. Sannoh
School going children drawn from various Primary and Secondary Schools on Saturday June 16 this year gathered at the Freetown Secondary School for Girls at Brookfields in Freetown to commemorate the Day of the African Child under the sponsorship of the Mercury International Children’s Foundation.
Explaining the history of the Africa’s Child Day to the thousands of children the Chairman of the programme who is also a Media Consultant for United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF), Mr. Mr. Morlai Kamara, said he was happy to see the children in such a large number to commemorate a sad event that took place in Soweto, South Africa in which hundreds of their colleagues were killed by the South African apartheid Police on 16th June, 1974.
He stated that even though the day was not meant to be celebrated, the actions taken by the students to strongly oppose the racist political system today marks the pinnacle of the peaceful successes South Africa is enjoying as a nation.
He also stated that for their bravery and courage to challenge that murderous regime every year, on this day, children all over Africa come together to pay tribute their memory.
He maintained that the actions of those gallant children set in motion a lot of events that finally culminated in the defeat of the apartheid system.
In addressing their colleagues Adolphus Andrews and Samuella Yonnie, two Class 6 pupils of the Bethel Temple Primary School at Tower Hill in Freetown, said they were using the day to ask the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma to give them all their rights as children.
They stressed that children were suffering a lot of deprivations in this country, noting that they would like to see President take prompt action to better their situation.
‘’We want our rights to have a name and to be registered at birth, the right to belong to a country, to be cared for by our parents, and the right to have ideas to say what I think and please Mr. Government, give us our full rights and finally allow these rights to be protected,’’ they read out from a list of demands while their colleagues repeated the shouts after them.
Speaking on the importance of education for the girl child and the challenges the girl child faces in acquiring education in Sierra Leone, the Executive Director for Children in the Media Sierra Leone, Mr. Sallieu Sesay, said that education improves the content of the ability of citizens of a country, increases the level of their production and promotes their rights and democracy.
He explained that their organisation received funding from the Mercury International Children’s Foundation to celebrate this day with the children.
He explained that they also partnered with Girl Child Network Sierra Leone and Concept Media to present the Sarafina film, and implement the commemoration of the African Child’s Day with the school going pupils.
He thanked the Executive Chairman of the Mercury International Company, Mr. Samir Yassanyeh and the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Martin Michael for their kind support to their organization to organise the programme.
Mr. Sesay pointed out that education provides pupils with the acquisition of knowledge that prepares them physically, mentally and socially for survival in the world in their adult lives, observing further the educational level the human resources of any country determines the development of that country.
‘’A writing and reading nation is a winning nation. If Sierra Leone is to succeed as a nation the culture of reading and writing should be developed. The right to education at regional level has also been made very clear in Article 17 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which recognizes the right to education,” he explained.
He admonished the children to concentrate on their studies, be respectful to their parents and elders, and resist early sex, alcohol and drug taking so that they will grow up to become good citizens as leaders of tomorrow.