Day of the African Child: in Cameroon, Congo and Madagascar, children speak out!
Each year on June 16, the African Union and its member states celebrate the Day of the African Child. This day commemorates the children who were murdered in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 while demonstrating for their right to education in the midst of apartheid.
This special day is an opportunity for us to share the voice of children and young people in vulnerable situations, supported by our local partners. Our partners: in Cameroon the Foyer de l'Espérance, in Madagascar Graines de Bitume and, in Congo, Espace Jarrot and ENCRED, two member structures of the REIPER (Réseau des Intervenants sur le Phénomène des Enfants en Rupture), have organized workshops to consult with children on access to basic services. As outlined in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), all children have the right to access basic services, such as education, health care, identity documents, and child protection services. However, in reality, many vulnerable or street-connected children face daily difficulties in accessing these services.
The workshop: "Draw a Flower"
Our partners carried out the workshop "Access to basic services: draw a flower" with the children they work with. This consultation activity was designed by the international network Consortium for Street Children*. Through this playful activity, mixing reflective discussions and drawings, children shared their experiences and formulated their needs in order to access basic services. In Madagascar, Congo and Cameroon, children expressed their views on access to education and health.
Access to education
During the workshops, access to education emerged as the only way to build a future, find a job, and develop: "having the right to go to school is important to become a great person in life," shared a young person from Espace Jarrot. For many of the children accompanied by Graines de Bitume, education is a way to stop being stigmatized by society for living on the street.
School fees and financial difficulties are the main obstacles preventing them from accessing education. One child reports, "There are parents who make their children work instead of sending them to school. At ENCRED, children report similar situations where they do "odd jobs" instead of going to school.
Also, the distances to school are problematic for many children because their parents cannot afford transportation. The children also point out the difficult access roads to school.
At the Espace Jarrot, the children talk about the problem of lack of energy to be able to study and learn properly: "To go to school, the child must eat". They also mentioned the problem of the quality of the educational system and the mistreatment of some teachers. For many children, the fact that they do not have a birth certificate or identity papers is the reason why they do not have access to school.
Supported by their educators, the children propose solutions: at the Foyer de l'Espérance, access to school requires free birth certificates. The children of Graines de Bitumes propose to provide school access and school canteen free of charge, and to facilitate the school registration process.
Access to health
Access to health care and good health means that children can study, play and work. The lack of money and the small number of health centers are the main obstacles to access to health care. The children mention the problem of the quality of care when they receive it and the fear of going to the hospital. At the Foyer de l'Espérance, a young person shares, "without an identity, we cannot access certain services like the hospital.
For the children of Graines de Bitume, the idea is to take measure to provide free health care for children and to create counseling centers to help them deal with their health problems. The young people of the Foyer de l'Esperance ask for the creation of reception centers for children in street situations. The children from Espace Jarrot and ENCRED emphasize the importance of having a support system, good friends, and a family: "Family is not necessarily the same blood. Family can be the person you rely on.
* The "Access to Basic Services: Draw a Flower" workshop was created by Consortium for Street Children as part of the advocacy campaign for the International Day for Street Children on April 12, 2021 with the theme: Access to Basic Services.