On that day, about ten thousand black South African schoolchildren marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language.
Scores of young students were shot. More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured overall.
These days, the Day of the African Child is an international holiday that raises awareness for the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children. Every year, governments, NGOs, international organizations, and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of children in Africa.
I did not know this.
I was alerted to the existence of the Day of the African Child this year - the week before it was meant to take place - when I opened an email written solely in Swahili from the Regional Office of Community Development, inviting The Toa Nafasi Project to helping in the planning process.
Of course, the planning party was scheduled for the very next day, so I could see we were already on a laissez-faire-to-the-last-minute Tanzanian schedule. Getting ready to go on vacation, and refusing to give in to my normal reaction and rise to the panic of working on short deadline, I sent Hyasinta to the planning meeting and I went off to Amsterdam.
Upon my return, Gasto and I attended the actual Siku ya Mtoto event as spectators only. We decided we had too short time to plan signs and banners, speeches and brochures, so we agreed to use this year's gathering as a trial, then get more involved next year. (This worked well for Siku ya Usonji - http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2015/04/usonji-day_16.html, http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2016/04/usonji-day-20.html)
So, we spent the day observing and taking notes for feedback to the Community Development people, though truth be told, I'm not entirely sure how well they'll take to our "constructive criticism." Nevertheless, we thought: If we go this year as bystanders, then next year we can offer our opinions when we ante up our own involvement.
Oh, where to begin, where to begin?
First off, we couldn't find the event or any information about it anywhere. And I mean, anywhere. Online mailing lists, social media platforms, a web search brought us no closer.
We went to the regional office itself and no one knew, even people who worked right across from those concerned with the day. Definitely, the planners need to do a better job of letting people know the what, when, where, and why of this significant day.
Secondly, the audience was confusing to us. Who is this holiday for? Gasto noted that the kids looked bored while the adults listened to the speeches, but yet the day was dedicated to the kids. Additionally, the speeches themselves were not appropriate for the youth. Frank discussions of child abuse with harsh language seemed unsuitable to discuss in front of young children.
I think it would have been worthy perhaps, to have separate speeches for the kids, using less radical language and encouraging self-reliance and self-protection. Throw in a little drumming, face-painting, and food, and everybody's happy.
Lastly, when we finally did discover where the occasion was being held, we were dismayed to know it was in Kahe, Moshi Rural, about an hour outside of town proper.
Umm, seems to me that if you want people to come to an event, you might want to make it fairly easy for them to get there. Having the celebrations at a secondary school in what is basically a tumbleweed-ridden ghost town was not brilliant.
That said, it was fairly well-attended given the aforementioned limitations. Check out the photos and videos below, including a shot of a lil' friend I made and the schedule of activities for the day.