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The Status of Africa\’s children, during the Month of the African Child


The African Union instituted the Day of the African Child (DAC) in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprisings that started in Soweto, South Africa. At that time, students marched in protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their own languages.
The DAC celebrates the children of Africa and calls for a serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges facing children across the continent.

It is in this spirit that we look at the various reports from our country chapters and look at the country-specific challenges faced by the children in Southern Africa with a country chapter view into the lives of the children in rural areas in these countries.


Lots of programs and projects aiming at promoting children’s rights have been initiated by the government as well as by bilateral and multilateral donors and partners in Madagascar. Nevertheless, for a decade, it has been noted that children’s rights were far from the expected realization, especially in rural areas.  Many legislative and political adjustments in different sectors such as education, health or even justice have then been undertaken. Still in 2019, the situation remained precarious. So, where is the shortcoming?

Despite relentless claim for a comprehensive and thoughtful specific national policy to rural women, little effort was made. Actions were mainly focused on gender-based violence and it seems that no analysis on the link between rural women’s social and economic situation and the realization of children’s rights has ever been performed. Anyhow, the link is there along with all relating consequences.

Women in the rural community of Mandoto (about 270 km south west of the capital of Madagascar) reported that in 2019, rains came very late and were so scarce that it highly affected farmers activities, especially women. As a result, the production decreased and farmers hardly harvested half of their annual crops production. Households incomes decreased as crops do not only serve as food but parts of them are sold to meet other needs including health care, education and other expenses for the children as well as for the rest of the household.

The sanitary crisis has exacerbated those Malagasy rural women’s situation, generating more difficulties especially in commercializing their already limited products. On the one hand, lockdown measures give advantage to intermediary purchasers who buy farmers’ products at a very low price while prices for essential products (sugar, rice, oil, soap, …)  suddenly shot-up on the other hand.  Providing adequate food to children is now a daily challenge and there is no doubt that these families will face serious malnutrition during the coming hunger season. 

Schools have been closed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Usually, when children do not go to school, they help their parents in the fields or perform minor work for wealthier people in the village. Since the sanitary crisis and due to its disastrous social and economic impacts on those rural women of Mandoto, many children have been sent to work in big cities. Women of Mandoto said “There is not much choice, children’s rights are bound to be violated because of poverty. If we have been sufficiently empowered in different areas, we would not be that vulnerable and would not have to count on our children this way or to send them away so that they can be correctly fed”. 

If State Authorities have correctly addressed the situation of rural women by establishing an adequate national policy aiming at a genuine empowerment of those women, the protection of rural children’s rights would not be such a challenge as their realization basically depend on the evolution of rural women’s life.

A mother and children in Madagascar


By the 16th of March 2020, after the President declared a State of Emergency in Namibia, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture cancelled all face-to-face classes at schools in the country.

On 22 March the country proposed e-learning to replace the intimate, face-to-face classes . This came with a lot of challenges, particuluarly to rural schools where both learners and parents did not have adequate access and capacity for e-learning teaching that was meant to continue. Some children are so far behind, as they were unable to access work online due to the challenges they face gaining the access and understanding how to access the work.

Namibia Online Learning SWOT analysis

The new Namibian school calendar has been divided into 4  phases. This is to help the staggered re-entry approach. The first phase is Grade 11 and Grade 12 which started on the third of June. While this was true nationally, all the Grade 11  and Grade 12 schooling in Erongo got suspended after a week, following the increase of the trans infection in the region. The Marintal high school in the Hardap region had one learner test positive for the coronavirus,  and this followed the suspension of the classes in that school. Grades  0-3 were was expected to resume to face-to-face classes on the 22 June 2020, but he word of the one learner  that tested positive for coronavirus, had all the parents concerned for ensuring the health of their children.  As a result the same suspicion was extended to the Grade 0-3 learners. The grade 0-3  are now expected to resume on 6 July following the increase of cases especially in the harbour town of Walvis Bay.

The government has committed to getting schools ready to accept learners and ensure their protection against COVID-19, but at least 20% of schools, mostly rural schools are not ready to receive learners, due to certain PPE\’s not having reached them in time.

The Rural Women\’s Assembly of Erongo in Namibia has provided 180 reusable cloth face mask to Grade 11-12 learners in an effort to ensure the safety of our learners, as well as provide some uniformity and prevent discrimination based on the type of masks the students could access. Lack of parents voice in the community is the major issue as there is no unions that is representing the parents in decisions-making spaces, yet they are left to bear the consequences of any fall-out from this pandemic for them and their children.


The novel coronavirus has really impacted the whole world this year, and as a result of this pandemic a number of things has caused interruptions in our day-to-day lives. This led to lockdowns in almost every country in the world. Months after the pandemic, countries have started learning to live with the virus. Children have been affected the most as schools were closed causing them to adjust to new learning environments. In Malawi, rural areas have been largely affected because of these developments. As rural women under Rural Women Assembly, this has led to many challenges.

In Malawi, RWA members from Kalumbu village were able to help most girls go back to school but with Covid-19, too much idling has exposed the girl child to risky behaviours with sex, drugs and other substance abuse. This has caused some of the  girls to fall pregnant, about 4 primary school children have fallen pregnant in the village.

A number of young girls have returned back to marriages and with this virus, it is feared that the school drop-out number will increase.

Girls with disabilities are facing difficulties in learning from home without necessary equipment.

There’s surge in unequal access to education as girls from rural households cannot attend online sessions due to lack of devices like smart phones, tablets or laptops.

In Malawi, schools are supposed to open on the 13th of July, next month, but it seems that these dates may be revised, after the Ministry of Education is reviewing a few issues that has since come up (not official yet). If the schools are to open next month our members feel there will be many negative outcomes due to this. During the lockdown there was a lot of inequality created by varying  access to education and resources. The government did not factor in such issues in their education strategic documents.

Lack of accessibility to computers is a challenge to learners in remote areas since they needed this to continue with e-learning. And even if computers were to be accessible now, the learner will still need time to learn and be confident with using these to do school assignments, taking notes, downloading school documents, even learning through that is a mental challenge because it’s a new thing and some have never been taught by using a devise. This mode of learning may affect their morale as learners and so, picking up pace to keep the grades as normal will be a challenge for a period of time. (This period could take longer or not, depending on learner’s adaptability to new forms of learning).

Most of RWA members have zero or few access points to power and this online mode of learning depends on connectivity to power. Unless if there was provision of solar powered computers or something better, but that’s an unlikely chance and so learners will still not be able to access education, this again is education injustice.

Most members rely on the fact that their children use books from the school’s library and Covid-19 reduced access to learning facilities like libraries. Members that have boarding scholars have faced difficulties in adjusting to learn from home where there is plenty of leisure and other distractions.

The other important concern with our members from Malawi was on finances. Most member’s businesses and farming have been interrupted and most of our members engage in village banks where they are able to access loans but with covid-19, it is hard to access such loans as businesses are not running smoothly. They are not sure if they will be able to cover their children’s school fees if the schools are to open.

In general, our government hasn’t helped during this time, especially for the rural child. It is pathetic to even think of online learning as an option because rural areas dominate the population of Malawi. Introducing this system is biased as our members can not benefit from this. We already have a poor education system and this only worsened the gap. We just hope with the coming elections, change will come!

A classroom scene in Malawi


In a month where we should be celebrating our children, men across our region in particular,  had decided instead  to rape and kill the future of this earth, the girl child. Too many cases of children being abused by parents on a daily basis, is turning this future generation of leaders into  a generation of monsters.  

During the lockdown SRWA have received many cases of girls that are being raped by their fathers and relatives. Instead of ensuring their safety and  helping them with their education, they are destroying their lives. More so, the frustrated parents tend to physically and emotionally abuse the children which also had been reported by our members.

 Our partner organization, Swaziland Action Against Abuse have discovered many cases of girls below 18 who have since left their homesteads to their old boyfriends and experience rape during this time. There are also high statistics of teenage pregnancy in eSwatini of such. These will also lead to more school dropouts.

What is even more heart breaking is the fact that the police seems to be protecting  patriarchal culture of marrying young girls. So much so that they see no reason for arresting rapists who rape young girls in the name of love. Hence most of such cases are never attended to by cops or reported.

Through engaging another partner organization Voice of our Voices (VOOV), a sexworker-led organization said they are getting more children joining sex work due to food insecurity and hunger. Aid is coming at a very slow pace, as the governments startegy shows bias and lots of inequality.  With nothing regulating the sale of commodities,  governments allow capitalist to make great profits and makes food essentials unaffordable, even by the working class.

SRWA volunteer counsellors and GBV women groups are all out at this time to help women and girls who are lockdown with abusers, they assist in finding cases and referring these cases to relevant structures.  

I had an opportunity to also talk to RWA young women members, like Yedwa Masuku from the Shiselweni region. She shared the difficulty they have as rural girls with the arrangement of online learning. She sited that it is a good initiative by the government to continue learning, but the rural girls are also saying that they feel excluded because they do not have smart phones, data is expensive and the network is not stable in rural areas. She further said this pandemic will hit hard on rural students as the others continue learning they are not able to receive the classes as they don’t have the devices and resources while when schools open teachers will not consider the inequality rural students experienced. 

Lindokuhle Sithole from the Lubombo region shared activities of survival during the Covid-19 she said: \”RWA taught me independence and to be the guardian of land, seed and love hence during my spare time I create milk container purses and do organic gardening.\”

A child in eSwatini learning arts and crafts


This month as we celebrate the African child, we want to hit a spotlight on the girl child in Lesotho.  it is not easy for most of them as they are home and not going to school because of the national lockdown which resulted in  schools also postponed. Some young women are even forced to take care of their families as their parents are in South Africa for work and cannot come home because the border is closed. The government is not doing much to help the families, as sometimes they are not able to get food from food parcels from individuals, local business men and politicians. The girls are home and having nothing to keep them occupied with, as they don’t have money to buy data or even own smart devices to continue online learning as it was suggested by the ministry of Education.

Child-headed homes are becoming a problem but during Covid-19 lockdown it has become a norm in the country.

Mantere\’s Story

Meet Mantene Ntoro  a 17 year teenage girl living with her 2 siblings in a sub village called Tika thole. Their widowed mother left them for work in one of the food processing firms in South Africa and because of the lockdown the firm was forced to downsize and unfortunately her mother was retrenched leaving the family with no income. She now has to take care of her siblings as her mother hasn\’t been able to cross the border into the country. They depend on food parcels from neighbours and as a teenager she has to make sure that her siblings go to bed with a full stomach and she is a school dropout. Mantere says, \”It could be very good if the government or anyone would help me and my sisters to go back to school and with food.\”

Rethabile\’s Story

I am Rethabile Mokulubete a 15 year old of Thaba-tseka Sekiring. I attend school at Paray High School doing grade 11. I am a female soccer player and a member of grassroots soccer which is a program that educates young people to support people living with HIV through soccer as a medium. Right now I am studying at home by reading my books and where I do not understand I research from the internet. My advice to people out there who are abused is to call for help. Don’t get revenge because it will make matters more difficult for you. I know, being abused isn’t good to anybody, and by that it can cause so many things to a person. One can suffer from depression, mental illness and so forth. Most women get abused by friends and families. Seeing someone get hurt is a very sharp pain to some of us, one can never know what to expect in the future. Some people are cruel to others because they want to make themselves happy some are made by peer pressure each and every one of us needs to listen to their inner voice. When someone does something bad to you, you do not have to do it back to make yourself feel better. Most people ask why do we not get revenge and consider ourselves victims. My answer to that is, why do you have to be like that person, they do it because they envy you and are jealous of you. Instead of hating them and getting revenge, just pity them because you only get to live once, so you should live your life loving those that are around you. Moreover, there are somethings you don’t have to hide forever. My advice is if you are being abused or incentive, report immediately to the neighbourhood, the police, or maybe you can even try by all means to help that person stop abusing you if by any chance he or she will understand you. But remember, you are not to blame yourself for being mistreated. You are not the cause of his or her behaviour towards you. You need to be treated with respect and love and deserve a safe and happy life and home. You are not alone, there are some people waiting to help.

Children heading households in Lesotho


Child marriage, the marriage of a person below the age of 18, deprives adolescent girls of their reproductive  health rights and impinges upon their opportunity to  realize their full potential and enjoy their human rights  as established in various international treaties.

Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 42% of women aged between 20-24  married by the age of 18.The rate of child marriage differs from one region to another with the highest rates being in Eastern and Northern Provinces of the country.

It is for this reason that the Rural Women\’s Assembly (RWA) based in Mporokoso, a town in the Northern part of Zambia, embarked on an outreach programme to speak to young girls in remote areas on sex education as well as forced child marriages. This was necessitated by Furrer Foundation (FUFO), a Zambian Non-governmental Organization (NGO) which made a donation of bicycles to help the women to teach the remotest areas of the province. Apart from remote areas, the women also passed through schools to educate the girl child on the evils of early child marriages as they believe it is a form of child abuse.

As RWA members, the women believe that they are guardians of land, life, seeds and love therefore, educating and sensitizing the girls with their families in remote areas would help in lessening the number of girls getting into child marriages. A successful programme they and they pledge to continue with their outreach activities so as to reach as many remote areas as possible.


The month of June is the month of the African Child and this article will be looking at the return of children to school, education during the  COVID 19 lockdowns, and the advent of the fourth industrial revolution. It will also look at how all this impacts on rural mothers.

As of 19 June 2020, Zimbabwe had 401 corona virus cases with 63 recoveries and 4 deaths. The nation is continuing level 2 lockdown with informal traders only being allowed to resume operation only after registration, gatherings are limited to a maximum of 50 people following the WHO regulations and travel restrictions, one requires an authority letter for them to travel.

The African Child

  • Most universities in Zimbabwe opened mid-June and they are conducting online lectures. 
  • Primary and Secondary schools will open on the 28th of July 2020 and the conditions are not yet clear how they will be conducting their lessons.
  • However, there are some primary and secondary learners who are continuing with their lessons online. The platforms being used include Whats App, zoom meetings, skype meeting, radio lessons and TV lessons.
  • Most of the rural children are not conducting any lessons due to many reasons which include, lack of smartphones, lack radios and televisions, no electricity in rural areas, lack of knowledge on fourth industrial revolution and unaffordability of data.
  •  Rural boys are now indulging in drugs and alcoholism. The rural girl is more vulnerable to abuse and we have cases of Child marriages.


  • Limited representation of women in COVID response task forces and committees, yet they are the ones at high risk of contracting the disease due to their gender roles.
  • Exclusion of women in law making and policy review formulation processes. Currently there is Constitution Amendment Bill 2 Public Hearings that are currently taking place in the country. However, most of the public hearings are being done in towns thus excluding the rural women. 
  • Travel restrictions-For anyone to travel in Zimbabwe, one must have a travel authority letter which is hard to get, some rural women could not attend the public hearings since they could not access travelling documents well in time.
  • Increase of GBV cases because of COVID19 whereby families are now spending most of the time together.

Success stories

  • The RWA Zimbabwe continues to disseminate information on COVID 19. In the month of June, they managed to disseminate information on COVID 19, donate masks and sanitizers in 5 Districts namely, Makoni, Hwedza, Gwanda, Bubi, Chiundura and Shurugwi.
  • Awareness campaigns were conducted in 6 districts encouraging rural women to participate in decision making processes i.e. to be also included in the COVID 19 response committees and other decision-making structures. Rural women are at more risk of contacting the COVID 19 disease at boreholes, clinics, grinding mills and shops.
  • Rural women assembly members in Makoni and Chiundura attended the Constitution amendments public hearings that were conducted in their areas. They represented the voices of the rural women concerning the Amendment of the constitution.

The pictures above show Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Director Officer encouraging women to participate in decision making. The Director emphasizing on the notion that women are the guardians of life, seed, love, and land. Women should take up positions in COVID 19 awareness, preparedness, and prevention committees.

Sister Thandiwe in the company of rural women in Gwanda harvesting their bean crop, picture on the right is Sister Sharon and a member of RWA in Chiundura garden. The rural women continue to work in their fields and gardens to provide food for their families during the lockdown crisis.

While our work is steeped in the politics of Rural Women, an analysis of the rural women is both connected and separate to the analysis of the rural child. The above reports indicate that there is still much to be done to create a society that offers safety, equality, equity, access, opportunity and abundance for all African children. The same applies to the Status of Rural Women. Their experiences are inextricably linked with those of their children.

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