The Day of the African Child is celebrated on June 16th. This day has been commemorated annually since 1991 to honor children who participated in a 1976 Soweto uprising protesting poor quality of their education. The day is meant to raise awareness on need to improve education provided to African children. The theme of 2021 Day of the African Child is “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children.”. Agenda 2040 is the Africa’s agenda for children which has ten aspirations. Aspiration 4 is about every child surviving with a healthy childhood; aspiration 5 is about a child growing up well-nourished and with access to basic necessities of life; and aspiration 6 is about a child benefitting fully from quality education.
Just the other day during the course of my work, I witnessed hunger in Turkana County. The most affected were school going children who were forced to skip school, so they could join their parents in search for food and water. Others were forced to take care of their younger siblings as their parents travelled long distances to look for food. All this simply meant that the children could not go to school hence missing a lot of learning time. This is sad bearing in mind that some of these children are supposed to sit for national examinations where they compete with their peers who never miss meals.
In 1943, an American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, proposed a hierarchy of human needs in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation. The theory identified physical survival needs as the most basic needs that human beings cannot do without, and some of these needs are food, safety, love and esteem. A hungry person cannot be interested in learning, socializing or working. Hunger leads to starvation which is lack of food nutrients required for maintenance of life. Since time immemorial, the country’s arid and semi-arid areas have been faced with hunger leading to starvation and sometimes death. Warnings over such have always been issued by relevant agencies but the government and stakeholders sometimes are slow to respond.
In his second term, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to dedicate his time, energy and resources to the achievement of the big four agenda. The big four agenda are; expansion of the manufacturing sector, affordable housing, affordable health care and food security. In my view, food security is key to the realization of the other three agendas. It is a high time that the government and all stakeholders walked the talk to curb hunger menace. Even as the country concentrate on building high end infrastructural projects, it would all be futile when we have a large populace going without food. This best describes Dwight D. Eisenhower (former American President) words that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”
These aspirations cannot be fulfilled if we have children missing school due to hunger. Hard decisions and measures meant for eliminating hunger in Kenya must be taken. Children should never be denied their rights to learn due to hunger. As the government think of the big 4 agenda, she should first prioritize provision of food to starving communities and more so, all the children in marginalized communities. With the children well fed, the government will have implemented aspirations 4 and 5 of Agenda 2040 for a Kenya fit for children.
Francis Njuguna is a program Officer at Zizi Afrique Foundation. For feedback, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org