"Teach me today, and I will work when I am older."

Tuesday 21 June 2016

“This is our day, we have to be happy, celebrate and play. Our parents have to respect our rights and children like me have to remember our responsibilities by respecting our parents and elders,” said Darcy, 13.

Darcy was part of a group of children celebrating the Day of the African Child on the streets of Mahama Camp, home to 50,000 Burundi refugees now living in Rwanda. On 16th June, the beautiful voices of children promoting their rights through singing were heard throughout the camp, as children and parents took time to mark the 26th edition of this day at an event organised by Save the Children and other partners.

Deborah, 12, a child representative in Mahama Refugee Camp, gave the opening speech highlighting issues affecting children in the camp and barriers preventing them from attending school.

“You love us and we know, but let us go to school,” she said. “For children like me, as we celebrate this day, let us also remember our responsibilities and respect our parents. Teach me today, and I will work when I am older.”

“I thank our parents, the Government of Rwanda, NGOs and Save the Children for taking care of us and promoting children’s rights here. However, there are still some issues affecting children including physical and humiliating punishments, gender-based violence, physical exploitation and poor hygiene that need to be addressed,” she added.

Children involved in the activities spoke passionately about their rights. Emeline, 13, one of the members of a children’s committee in Mahama refugee camp said: “We deserve quality education like others. Though we are refugees, but we still have our rights.”

Different partners and the government promised to address these issues and called on parents to be a part of the child rights movement by sending their children to school and encouraging them to practice good hygiene.

The Day of the African Child has been celebrated every year since 1991, after hundreds of children were killed in Soweto, South Africa, for fighting for their rights. As such, on 16th June each year, governments, NGOs, international organisations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of children in Africa.