International Day of the African Child: Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunities

The Day of the African Child is celebrated by the African Union every year in memory of the June 16, 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, when demonstrators were massacred by the apartheid regime.

Poverty forces children to work on building sites and other production sites in African cities, in dangerous and particularly harsh conditions for their age. Photo Credit: Ibrahima Bah-Lalya

This is the seventh blog post in a series of joint articles by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).

The Day of the African Child is celebrated by the African Union every year in memory of the June 16, 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, when demonstrators were massacred by the apartheid regime.

NGOs and African associations commemorate this tragic event with coordinated actions to raise leaders’ awareness and inspire them to take action and eradicate the extreme poverty and abuse responsible for the death of one child every three seconds.

It is also an opportunity to draw attention to the lives of young Africans today. The theme of the 2017 Day 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.”

The importance of paying particular attention to children’s rights  

The United Nations 2030 Agenda, the African Union Agenda 2063 and the African Charter all pay particular attention to the conditions required for children’s economic and social fulfillment. These conditions include an end to poverty, eradicating hunger, promoting health, quality education for all, gender equality, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, peace, justice, and participation.

To be added to these urgently needed fundamental rights is the right to full enjoyment of the cultures and traditions of the local communities in which children are born and grow up. Our common future1 cannot be conceived as a culturally monolithic block. Africa is endowed with local endogenous knowledge and skills that need to be taught to its children to build and secure their identity and subsequently help them become more responsibly integrated into this “great village” that our world has become.

Putting endogenous African knowledge and skills on the school curriculum

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) has taken a particular interest in this. It has conducted or commissioned a number of studies on the subject. Its specialized working groups have each looked into this challenging question of education for African children.

ADEA’s Working Group on Non Formal Education (WGNFE) has focused in particular on how to transmit two types of key skills to African children: identity skills so they feel African first and foremost, and skills for a global outlook so they feel citizens of this burgeoning world2.

The working group has concluded from its studies that one of the greatest challenges is to put endogenous African knowledge and skills on the school curriculum. The minimum requirements needed to meet this challenge are:

  • A legal and institutional set-up to make local cultural end economic know-how credible in the eyes of African children,
  • Reliable databases to inform young people of working age and smooth their economic and social integration,
  • A map of local trades,
  • National employment policies designed to be responsive to local particularities,
  • Regional qualifications frameworks that mainstream regional specializations,
  • Local and national youth employment management structures,
  • Statutory recognition of trainers working in the informal sector,
  • Identification of the basic knowledge needed to root children in the community,
  • More value placed on knowledge considered to be largely reserved for specific families and ethnic groups, and
  • Dynamic communication and youth support networks.

The Zankey Faba platform for youth empowerment and social and economic integration

The WGNFE has already moved on this last recommendation, working with UNESCO UIL and other partners to create an African virtual network on vulnerable young people called Zankey Faba3 for sharing best practices and mutual support.

This network manages a platform for discussions between African countries and their partners to improve policies and practices for vulnerable African children.

The network is designed to build the capacities of African governments, civil society and youth organizations to empower vulnerable adolescents and young people, and facilitate their social and economic integration.

In other words, Zankey Faba is contributing in its own way to accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunities for young Africans.


[1] Our Common Future (Brundtland Report), (1987), World Commission on Environment and Development, Oxford University Press.

[2] WGNFE and Daouda Ndiaye (2015). Savoirs et savoir-faire endogènes pour une meilleure adéquation école-communauté (Endogenous knowledge and skills for a better school-community match), WGNFE/ADEA. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

[3] Bah-Lalya (I.) and Al (2016). Accéder aux jeunes vulnérables en Afrique par le biais du réseautage éducatif en ligne (Reach vulnerable young people in Africa with online education networking); the Zankey Faba program. WGNFE/ADEA. Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso.