The African Child has been Largely Ignored

Published on 16th June 2009

As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, we must look back to history and evaluate our leaders into Independence. Did they have the vision for Africa and for the African Child?

From Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, to Namzdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Nigeria, Siaka Stevens in Sierra Leone, Leopold Sedar Senghor in Senegal, Patrice Lumumba and Moishe Kasavumbu in Congo Kinshasa, Edwardo Dos Santos in Angola, Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia, Hastings Kamuzu Banda in Malawi, Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Milton Obote in Uganda, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya, and the many independent heroes in Africa, one thing stands out; their visionless approach to leadership in Africa.

Our Independence heroes fought for freedom, not for Africans, but for themselves. They fought for freedom to liberate themselves from the pangs of poverty, illiteracy, disease and want. They fought for control of contracts and tenders. They fought to compete in ruining the economies of African states.

At independence, we used to have plenty of food. Many households used to have three meals per day. There was uji in the evening as you watched your cattle come back home. There were a variety of foodstuffs to choose from. But that was then. It lasted almost 10 years into independence when Africa started reeling from the mismanagement by our independence heroes.

Ten years into Independence, service delivery was being slowly but surely being replaced by personal delivery. The African Independence hero was delivering to his family and cronies. They had learnt that accounts could be opened away from motherland Africa. In these accounts, loans negotiated for Africa found a resting place. In these accounts, Grants meant for Africa were diverted. Money stolen outrightly from the Central Banks in Africa found itself in these accounts.

That was the African independence hero. Instead of working for the future of Africa and her children, he worked for the future of his Child and family. Not the future of his country.

The common vision shared by these Independence heroes became thievery. They tolerated no opposition and alternative leadership. They had no economic vision to take Africa to the next level but dwelt on enriching themselves. They had no vision for the education of the African Child, but they had that vision of taking all their children to the Western Capitals for further education. It did not matter what further education meant. The child of the African leader had to be taken to some Ivy League school; just for prestige, not academic excellence. They took themselves and their families to the best medical facilities in the Western Capitals as Africa suffered the worst cases of medical neglect. They saw no sense in improving or building medical facilities for us here in Africa. They imported water from France and had their clothes laundered in Paris.

They inherited a rich continent and immediately started a massive rape campaign. They competed in amassing wealth at the expense of service delivery. Sadly, those who inherited their thrones became weaned on this line of visionless leadership.

The current crop of leaders consider themselves as demi-gods, not servant leaders. In cases where some talk of servant leadership, it is clearly not evident. They are inaccessible and operate from the ozone layer- where they feign to have all answers to problems in Africa. Yet, 46 years into Independence, this knowledge can now be questioned.

Did they know the right things for Africa? Did they have a clear path for leadership? Did they have a vision even on how these issues could be solved?

As we celebrate the International Day of the African Child, we must have hope. Hope not in the current leadership for they have failed the African Child so miserably. We must have hope at the resilience of the African Child. With no service, he is left to the Donor Community and people who feel sufficiently philanthropic. In cases where the government proffers service to the child, it is in most cases stolen; stolen by the same service provider! Or, it is given to the child who is less deserving.

In Kenya, we have started to see some vision coming into shape. Under pressure, the Government has realized the wasted years and has come up with programmes that tend to be Child friendly. By creating a Ministry dealing with issues of the Children, we must have hope that 46 years into Independence, the wheels have started to move at long last.

We must hence put the past behind us and think anew. We must start focusing on the African Child by giving him equitable access to education, educational facilities, and medication. We must feed the African Child less politics. We cannot be a country on campaign throughout the year. We must have a clear cut path; a time to campaign and a time to work. The African Child will grow knowing that campaigns are a daily issue. The African leader must give the African Child the kind of leadership that gives hope; hope for a secure future where poverty is addressed; where quality education is given the best shot; where medication is accessible and affordable.

In Kenya, the Government must settle at specific coursework books in schools. The coursework books are changed every year to an extent where if you have three children in school, they will be instructed on different books in the same class in the three year period.

The Government must have standards; they must maintain the textbooks for instruction just like we used to have Safari Books and Primary Mathematics series in the ‘70s. We now have all manner of instruction manuals in the school, most of which are not based on academic excellence.

We must put pressure on our current leaders to have a clear vision for the African Child and Africa. This must not include stealing the resources of Africa and stashing it in the Western World.

Odhiambo T Oketch,

CEO KCDN Nairobi.

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