I don’t know about you but I certainly find it rather interesting that International Day of the African Child, Youth Day and Father’s Day all fall on the same day this year in South Africa. It’s like the phases of a person, don’t you think? A child, a youth then an adult (father). Maybe I’m stretching things a little too far here but besides just having a ‘packed’ June 16 where commemoration of certain events are concerned, this year certainly has me considering a different narrative – today is one of a kind!
International Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 since 1991, initiated by the Organisation of African Unity. The day honours the 1976 Soweto Uprising participants and goes further into drawing attention to the education provided to African children and the need to improve it and fulfil the right for every African child to have access to education. For those who have more, they are encouraged to share their abundance with an African child.
Youth Day is a public holiday in South Africa, celebrated on June 16 as well, also honouring those who shed their blood in 1976 for an improved education system that catered for South African children, equally. Thousands of school children marched on the streets of Soweto, demanding that their rights be honoured and be taught in their own language. Hundreds of school children were shot and injured and over a hundred killed in the protests that continued in the following few weeks. South Africa honours the students who dared to stand up against the apartheid government and suffered for it.
And then there’s Father’s Day! Fatherhood, the influence of fathers in society and paternal bonds are celebrated. Father’s Day is recognised worldwide; it honours male parenting, fathers and father figures on the difference that they make in the lives of their children.
Today is a little more special for me and I’m happy to dub it ‘The Day of the African Child’. Here is how it all comes together for me and how today had me thinking and creating a narrative that these ‘days’ sparked: with International Day of the African Child you have, of course, the child who has a dream about ‘this Africa’, a pure and untainted vision of a beautiful and happy Africa. The hope for a better future, “our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” The child with a dream speaks of hope but also draws us to a tragedy and sad reality because even though they have the dream, most of the time they don’t have the tools to achieve that dream. Then we talk about the June 16 1976 Uprising in which the youth died. The youth, who was once a child, grew up to face threats to their dream. So we find ourselves with a youth who decided to take matters into their own hands because the adults failed them and so took to the streets and blood was shed. And then we have Father’s Day and of course, the youth has now grown into parents themselves. And throughout these phases, there is still the sense of hope and tragedy weaved into the story of each individual; in this phase we have fathers who are present and contributing in the best of ways in the lives of their children and protecting their dreams. There’s a fantastic story to tell there about how responsible and present fathers make all the difference in a world where many more children are without fathers and thereby embodying a fatherless nation without a dream nor a future to be hopeful for. The absence of fathers and/or father figures is still a real issue in South Africa and in this narrative, the child’s dream remains a dream.
So today what we have, essentially, is a child who has a dream, the youth that died for the dream and the father who has to deliver the dream.
Happy International Day of the African Child, Happy Youth Day and Happy Father’s Day! And just in case it’s your birthday too, happy birthday!