Thursday 16th June is the International Day of The African Child – a day which commemorates the bravery of thousands of black school children who took to the streets in Soweto on this date in 1976 to demand better quality education.
The day is a chance to campaign for children’s rights – such as healthcare and education. But it is also a joyful day of street processions, celebrations and football matches for thousands of schoolchildren across African countries. It is a day when children are given the opportunity to express their own views on matters affecting them through activities such as drama, poems and debates. Hear more about it in the video below.
Celebrating the day
Plan have sent cards to thousands of supporters who sponsor a child in Africa, encouraging them to write a message of support and encouragement to the child they sponsor. The card is themed around the Day of the African Child and includes some stickers which will both be handed out as part of the local celebrations.
In Zambia, the celebrations will involve balloons and games. Over 2,000 children in Chibombo will be encouraged through fun group activities to understand the part they can play in standing up for their rights. It promises to be a great occasion, with similar celebrations happening right across the continent.
Working with street children
The theme for the Day of the African Child 2011 is "All together for urgent action in favour of street children", and it aims to highlight the needs of some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded young people in the world.
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, eight teams of street children from across the world – boys and girls – met in South Africa to compete for the Street Child World Cup.
The teams had coaching sessions with former Tottenham and England player Gary Mabbutt and attended a two-day conference once the tournament was over. The conference, run by a number of street children’s organisations at Durban University of Technology, gave street children the opportunity to speak for themselves.
They met decision-makers and opinion-formers and planned to produce a global manifesto with recommendations for action by local and national governments and community organisations to enable street children to achieve their rights and lead full and dignified lives. Plan ran two special sessions at the conference focussing on girls – one on violence, the other on education.
“Over the years, Plan has recognised the value of football as an escape and a rewarding activity for the world’s poorest children,” says Plan UK’s Chief Executive Marie Staunton. Football has been used in trauma counselling and rehabilitation and is especially valuable for children scarred by life on the streets.
To support our work with street children, find out more about Plan's Forgotten Children initiative.