On June 16, 1976, nearly ten thousand black students from Soweto, South Africa marched the streets to protest the poor quality of their education. They marched as a way to demonstrate their disapproval of the Black Education Act, which segregated students based on their race.
Hundreds of innocent students were shot by security forces. And in the 2 weeks of protest that followed, dubbed the Soweto Uprising, more than a hundred students were killed and thousands were badly injured.
Since 1991, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 to commemorate those killed during the Soweto Uprising in South Africa and to recognize the courage of the students who marched for their right to an education.
The Day of the African Child is also an opportunity to raise awareness for the ongoing need to improve the education of children living across Africa. It’s a need that still very much exists today.
It is estimated that there are at least 13.5 million African children who have been displaced from their homes through conflicts, climate change, and poverty and are in need of humanitarian help. These children live as refugees, migrants or internally displayed persons, existing from day to day without the facilities and opportunities to fulfill their potentials in life. The figures become more worrisome when Orphaned and Vulnerable children (OVC) are added to the total tally.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First”. Humanitarian actions are mainly offered to assist those who have no power or abilities on their own to seek and acquire basic amenities for everyday living while upholding their human dignity.
To mark the International Day of the African Child, Project PEP – Peer Education for Prefects reached out to students in public secondary schools in Ilupeju, Lagos. Project PEP is a civic education and youth leadership initiative using traditional/historical leadership structures in secondary schools as a vehicle for developing leadership potential, raising awareness and civic responsibility to equip aspiring young leaders to engage in decision and policy making at a young age. PEP organizes programs, conferences and capacity building training for identified prefects in secondary schools in Nigeria.
The foundation reached a total of 3,397 students from Estate Junior Grammar School, Estate Senior Grammar School, Ilupeju Junior Grammar School, Ilupeju Senior Grammar School, Ilupeju Junior Secondary School, and Ilupeju Senior Secondary School. The students were enlightened on a safer school environment: peer pressure and sexual harassment.
Mr. Ese Akpovona, PEP Project Officer, spoke on the effects of negative peer pressure among students. He made the students understand that peer pressure can be positive and negative. He further gave the students some tips on how to handle negative peer pressure. Those tips include not responding immediately when under pressure to do things one is not comfortable with; thinking before acting; reporting to a trusted adult or friend and walking away without criticizing others.
Mrs. Rose Ume, a seasoned social worker and a volunteer with the foundation, spoke on how negative peer pressure can lead to sexual harassment. She further admonished the students to mind the company of friends they keep.
Mrs Aderonke Mary Oyelakin rounded up the session, and charged the students to feel free to dream and aspire for greatness, adding that whatever they aspire in life can be achieved. She cautioned the students to shun all negative peer pressure and decide to be better people. Mrs Oyelakin further added that the students should protect themselves and should not allow anyone to violate their rights.
Mrs Oyelakin spoke on the theme of this year’s celebration noting that protecting the rights of the child also calls for the use of international human rights law as the measure of first resort in a humanitarian crisis. Reliance on human rights law as captured in the African Children’s Charter, for example, offers protection of children affected by conflict, crises and humanitarian situations, and protection in other situations. She added that the Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation has been doing this for the past few years; protecting the rights of children, girls, and women. The foundation’s goal is always the best interests of the child, she said.
The Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation has impacted a total of 7657 beneficiaries through its various projects in the second quarter of the year 2019 alone.
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