Saturday, 15 June 2013

Dear African Child...

[Letter written on 15th June 2013 to commemorate the Day of the African Child on 16th June 2013. This day is important in the calendar of all children in Africa. It is a day to let the child talk to us about what problems they face and what solutions they want to see. It is a day to celebrate the African child in all his/her beauty. It is a day where we also walk with our heads bent in shame for the ills that our children face today—early and forced marriages, forced begging, child labour, child sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, and so on. But it is a day of hope, hope that what we can do today can improve the lives of children in Africa and beyond. Hope that whatever little contribution we can make, we can help transform the lives of children. It is no coincidence, then, that Neil Postman wrote, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”  That is how he opens his book, The Disappearance of Childhood, originally published in 1982 by Delacorte Press.]

Today, African Child, I am putting pen to paper. I want to write this as beautifully as I can but as truthfully as it can get because I know that you are a child. You see, as a child, if I am a big mess of myself as an adult, you will not mince your words. You will say that I suck. There! You will say that. So, we spare each other the guarded language and say like it is.

I am not sure if you will read this. When you are lying on pavements and begging on the streets, it makes sense to look for food than such abstract things like education. Many of your friends, the lucky ones I mean, can’t go beyond 8th grade. Not because they are not keen on education but their parents can’t afford the fees.  Even when they can somehow pay, many are forced to eke out a living on the streets: begging, selling groundnuts, being lured to sex by monied sex pests/pedophiles.

And your streets and your homes are not safe. As early as 7 p.m., you are defiled/raped on your way home. At your homes, we, the adults, can be one of your worst enemies. Because your trust and friendships are genuine, we defile you and tell you that if you whisper a word, we will cut your throats. Being children, the horror of what you go through replays in your minds till some neighbor notices that you are withdrawn or are limping. Forgive us, our African Child.

How then, can we explain to you that this is a caring world, a beautiful world, when some of the worst things can happen to you? What solace, what consolation, what encouraging message can we give to tell you that you are such a wonderful African Child in all glory of Africa, the Africa where beautiful wild animals run? Which flute can we blow into when the wind is turbulent with the chaotic tornado keen on disrupting your childhood? Which guidance can we give, when all of your essence, your purity, your innocence, your vitality, has been sucked out, leaving you a hollow shell?

You need not tell me anything now. I can see the pain and sorrow in your eyes. From where I saw radiance and bubbling happiness, all I can see are dimmed sockets sunken in the miseries of the life we have put you into. Where we all heard the sweet hum of your voice, is a haunting silence, a silence that seeks answers from the universe. Truly, when a child stops playing, the world should be worried.

But if it was the urgency that you wanted, either it was not there or it was taking long to register. Because, if in deed, the ‘red alert’ button had been pressed, then your predicament would have been addressed with the seriousness it deserves. But what have we seen? Gerrymandering. Indecisiveness. Aloofness.

O, Poor African Child! I am surprised sometimes at the aloofness we can have. You see, the greatest tragedy in our society today is not the crashing world markets or the nations’ rivalry. No. The greatest tragedy today is a world which is indifferent to the needs of children. A world which cannot exhibit any emotion, no indignation, no anger, no sense of urgency in anything, more so in matters of children.

So, African Child, as I saw you full of energy, singing, reciting poetry and dancing to commemorate this important day, my heart was paining. This should be the life you are living! Childish, playful, in full splendour. I found it hard to imagine that we, the adults, can be the ones to flush this life out, to let it peter out, to kill your happiness, to snuff out your childhood.

So, African Child, on this day, we ask for forgiveness. That you find it in your heart to forgive us for all that we have done to you in the past and today. We ask for forgiveness for what we have failed to do to better your lives. We ask for forgiveness for trampling on your rights. We ask for forgiveness for not letting you not be a child, placing upon you early responsibilities of adulthood.

Your friend,



Taken at Kwale County. The Day of the African Child was celebrated on 14th, being a school day and which day was convenient to the children unlike the 16th which falls on a Sunday. The celebration was conducted at Matuga Primary School. The first two photos are of the procession band and the third is of a Primary School reciting a poem.


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Beautiful and heartfelt, Salem. It is good to see you marching with the children, and to know that your workday is spent each and every day trying to improve the lives of children.You must be a symbol of hope to them, traveling from your small village as you did, to becoming who you are destined to be, their champion. love, Koko

Post a Comment

Echoes of the Hills is all about you. I would love to hear your echo...

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Disqus for Echoes of the Hills