Commemorating the Day of the African Child in Covid 19 pandemic lockdown 

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TARUBEREKERA MASARA in Pretoria

As we hold the 16 June commemorations today a bitter legacy for today’s youth facing unemployment, gender based violence and human rights emasculations reigns supreme in our societies.

The youth of 2020 are enduring a much more silent war, the corona virus pandemic.

This year’s Youth Day is happening at a time of gross anxiety and disruption, of the Covid-19 pandemic which has killed hundreds of thousands and infected millions worldwide.

The challenges that children in Africa face on a daily basis remains cancerous. The theme selected by the African Committee for the celebration of the DAC in 2017 is -“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment, and equal opportunity”. -The child friendly version of the theme is simply “Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunities for children in Africa by 2030”.

In many ways the pandemic has had negative impact in the programming for youth emancipation and empowerment.

Zimbabwe is enduring the worst crushing effects of Covid 19 pandemic the youths unemployment rate is acute and unimaginable, sexual reproductive health services are decimated.

By and large we are commemorating June 16 when much of the focus during the pandemic has been on the global number of cases and subsequent deaths; people around the world have also worked hard to tackle job losses, business closings and a plunging stock market.

Sadly there are tens of thousands of other victims here – ones who may never get sick from the virus, but may take a lifetime to recover from its fallout.

Home is where we’re supposed to be safe these days. But for many children, it’s the last place they want to be.

Women suffer the violence, disproportionately.

And kids will witness much of this abuse, if not experience it themselves.

There are other elements of this pandemic most of us would never think of. For instance, many parents, especially those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, look to schools to provide food for their children. They also expect schools to look after their children while they are off working at low-paying jobs.

Studies have shown a direct correlation between economic instability and reported instances of violence in the home, and right now there is massive upheaval in the job market.

It is this deplorable situation we face as we embraced the Day of the African Child.

The Covid 19 pandemic will see an increase in unemployment.COVID-19 is expected to push the rise in rates of unemployment in the aftermath of the 2009 global financial crisis.

Based on the 2009 experience, UNESCO said, without targeted policy intervention, it is likely that youth will again be disproportionately affected by a global recession, with a higher percentage of young people being unemployed compared to adults, and a slower uptake of employment by young people during the recovery.

In light of the threat to the livelihoods of many youth, it is crucial that measures to ease the financial impacts on households are comprehensive and sufficient to bridge the gap resulting from loss of earnings.

The global pandemic is also having an unprecedented impact on education systems all over the world, with far-reaching social consequences.

According to UNESCO (2020), so far 191 countries have implemented nationwide or localized school closures, resulting in over 91 per cent of enrolled students, or 1.5 billion people, not being able to go to school.

These students face disruptions to their education of uncertain duration, with varying levels of alternative delivery methods.

Such disruptions can negatively impact learning, access to nutrition, and consequently, graduation rates.

School closures have a particularly adverse effect on poorer students, students without stable internet access at home, and children relying on help from their schools in meeting their nutrition and health needs.

The situation is especially acute for girls and young women who are disproportionately excluded from education.

Unesco also noted that the vulnerable and marginalised youth are at particular risk of COVID-19 and its impacts.

Young migrants and refugees, youth living in rural areas, adolescent girls and young women, indigenous and ethnic minority youth, young persons with disabilities, young people living with HIV/AIDS,  young people of different sexual orientations and gender identities, and homeless youth already experience challenges in accessing healthcare services and social protection. Young people with physical or mental health conditions also face an elevated risk in relation to COVID-19.

Many young people may not have stable housing and therefore cannot safely engage in home-based social distancing.

The pandemic and economic recession may further fuel stigma and discrimination against certain groups of young people, which in turn would further exclude them from accessing healthcare and maintaining their livelihoods.

These disparate impacts should inform the comprehensive policy response to this crisis”

Now faced with such gapping realities Africa will commemorate the Day, simply put there is nothing to commemorate. We have done nothing and in actual fact we are retrogressing a lot.

For most of our young women the Day of the African Child comes at a time when there is a crisis brewing in the undertow Plan international noted that the “evidence from past epidemics indicates resources are often diverted from routine health services. This further reduces the already limited access of many girls and young women to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as maternal, new-born and child health services.

The COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to restrict or rollback girls and women’s access to essential sexual and reproductive health rights, which must continue to be prioritised, funded and recognised as lifesaving”

Daybreak for the African Child seems far and a pipe dream yet we are adamant that one day we shall turn the scales.

On June 16, 1971 more than 20,000 South African students in the township of Soweto took to the streets — demanding to be taught in their own language. Armed police officers responded by murdering hundreds of protesters.

Now a public holiday in South Africa, referred to as Youth Day, it’s also recognized as International Day of the African Child throughout the world.

The day focuses attention on the barriers African children face in order to receive a quality education.

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