By Caitlin Bantom 

On Friday, June 25, a virtual commemoration led by the Eastern Cape Premiere, Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane, was held to celebrate the Day of the African Child (DAC) with the theme “Equal Access to Education in Africa during and beyond COVID-19”. 

The Day of the African Child was first instituted in 1991 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of then OAU (now the AU) in memory of the Soweto Uprising that took place on 16 June 1976 in South Africa, which is now known as Youth Day.

The Premiere said that there are many challenges that children face in the Eastern Cape today. “Here in the Eastern Cape Province we are still sited with social ills as you know that in our province, we are still facing issues such child trafficking; to be used as secure slaves in other countries, the issue of young girls being forced into marriage and children who can’t afford to get themselves sanitary pads in time of need,” he said. 

Mabuyane also highlighted that in terms of child development, all developing countries within Africa are still catching up.  “Countries in the developing world in particular, here in Sub-Saharan Africa, are still playing catch up 
in terms of putting in place the fundamental building blocks critical to securing a sustainable growth trajectory for its people including access to early childhood development, instrument the broader education, value chain training and skills transfer opportunities, as well as, economic 
participation of the youth,” he said. 

Speaking on child development, Mabuyane said that parental guidance is crucial. “You can’t replace a parent, the love and input of parents in the upbringing of a child help children to become responsible individuals and be willing to work with teachers at school, but if a parent is not part of a child’s grooming, it becomes easy for kids to be influenced by friends and everything else the child sees in the world,” he said. Highlighting the consequences of the absence of parental guidance, Mabuyane said, “Without access to quality and alternative care, children deprived of parental care often face a downward spiral of economic, social and 
structural exclusion and marginalisation with long term consequences for them and their communities.” 

The Premiere stated that there are millions of children who do not get parental care which leads to them becoming vulnerable.  “According to the United Nations children’s finds, millions of children deprived of parental care or who are at risk of being so, are among the world’s most vulnerable.

UNISEF also tells us approximately 140 million children are classified as orphans globally with 5.1 million without both parents. The research also estimates that 1 out of 10 children are growing up without appropriate parental care. This figure includes those children who have lost or are at risk of losing parental care and live in extremely vulnerable circumstances 
where they are lacking adequate care and protection,” Mabuyane said. 

In spite of the challenges faced by children, Mr. Mabuyane believes that the youth and children are ready for the fourth industrial revolution. “The novel corona virus has placed greater urgency on the digital migration of global systems from how economies are being organised and run to how interfacing with educational curricula will be conducted to the development 
of home and work systems. Digitisation and acceleration of the fourth industrial revolution are already upon us, now is the time to ready our youths for the future. As we know our kids these days are more than ready for this, it’s just us who fear this change even with smart phones our kids 
navigate easily,” he said. 

Mabuyane also added that it is important to be cognisant about the digital divide among children and that providing children with education should be the top priority.

“We are saying equal access to education during and beyond covid19, as this virus is just a temporary thing. I also wish to propose that at the heart of what will be the impediment to the future, to the development as well, of the African child apart from a lack of parental care for our children today will be how sub-Saharan Africa respond to the digital divide as digital 
technologies and artificial intelligence system oppose to drive global economies. We are saying educating and arming children for their future should be our number one priority at this day and age,” he said. 

Premiere Mabuyane stated that developing and investing in our children and the youth prepares them for a brighter future. “Apart from the infrastructure deficity, we have in regards to our development the endeavour to develop our most important asset; our human capital, the majority of whom are our children and youth, requires closer attention. Whatever we do as 
government, we need to do it with the aim of developing our young and preparing them for the future,” said Mabuyane. 

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