By Margaret Kamba
Today the 16th of June, we commemorate International Day of the African Child under the theme ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa.’
This day has been commemorated since 1991 to honour those killed during the Soweto Uprising in 1976. On that very day in 1976, about ten thousand black school children 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.
Hundreds of young students were shot, the most famous of which being Hector Peterson. More than a hundred people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and more than a thousand were injured.
Political analyst Mashingaidze Gomo writes that commemorations of the Day of the African Child must in essence never allow the African Child to forget the massacre and why it was.
“The reason why African children were massacred was for contesting the use Afrikaans in their schools. Afrikaans is the language of apartheid and the critical importance of any language lies not in its sound, but its ideological freight,” Gomo said.
“It is fundamental that language carries the speaker’s interests in a manner the speaker may not even be aware of. For the African child the use of Afrikaans to frame their ideas would translate to a psychological prison more de-humanising than the physical prison.”
Gomo says it would be fool hardy for us to forget this day in relation to Zimbabwe’s own story.
“Less than two months after the massacre in Soweto, Rhodesian Selous Scouts repeated the cowardly act on refugee black children at Nyadzonia in Mozambique. They massacred over a thousand inmates of the refugee camp, the majority of them children.
“A year later on November 23 1977, the same heinous crime was repeated by the same Rhodesian and South African war criminals at Chimoio in Mozambique. This history should forewarn the prudent African child not to have any illusions that in the distorted Rhodesian and Afrikaner worldview, their rights hold the same sanctity as white children’s rights.”