Promoting and protecting children’s rights in Africa: Case of the Talibés of Senegal.

Authors: Coordinator and members of the Implementation Clinic of the Centre for Human Rights

Henrietta Ekefre Samuel Ade Ndasi Susan Mutambasere Jonathan Obwogi

In 2012, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria,  together with La Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), an NGO in Senegal, submitted a case to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). The case concerned children forced into street begging in Senegal.

Since the 1980s, Senegal has had a challenge with access to primary education, which leaves thousands of children unable to get absorbed in the mainstream schools. Further, religion plays an important role in the upbringing of children. These have contributed to a situation where at least 100 000 children are enrolled in daaras (religious schools) often far away from their parents. The daaras are administered by marabouts who are religious leaders and not trained educators. These children who are called talibés live in deplorable and overcrowded conditions where they are subjected to various forms of abuse. The marabouts exploit the talibés by making them beg on the streets. In some instances, children are given financial targets to reach, failure of which results in punishment. There is no provision of medical care should the talibés fall sick as they essentially have to fend for themselves.

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Why we need both words and actions to help Africa’s children

Author: Dr Assefa Bequele
Executive Director, Africa Child Policy Forum (ACPF)

We’re often told that actions speak louder than words, and it’s true we won’t change lives by simply talking about the problems. But I also think that you can’t make a real impact unless you’ve thoroughly debated and agreed what needs to be done. Words first, then actions.

I was reminded of this at the Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children, held recently in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. More than two hundred child rights experts, politicians, lawyers and civil society activists came together to try and find a way forward for the thousands of children across Africa who are denied access to justice. It’s easy for the cynics to dismiss such conferences as talking shops – fine words and discussions, but little in the way of concrete action. And if we had simply presented and debated the issues, there could have been some truth in that

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Strengthening children’s rights in Africa: Some lessons from the new Children’s Act of Angola

aquinaldo_mandlateAuthor: Aquinaldo Mandlate
LLD (UWC), LLM (UP) Licenciatura em Direito (UCM)

On 22 August 2012, Angola enacted a new Children’s Act, adding to the number of African countries (including South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, and many others) which reviewed their legislation focusing on children’s rights. Angolan law, like many other recent African legislation on children, is comprehensive and detailed in multiple aspects of children’s rights. Some of its features are common in other similar instruments in the region. For instance, it protects children’s civil and political rights and their socio-economic rights. The right to life, the right to health and the right to basic education, amongst others are protected. In addition, the law entrenches the four principles forming the core of international and regional treaties dealing with children’s rights (the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) included), including the principles of non-discrimination (Article 2 of the CRC and Article 3 of the ACRWC), best interest of the child (Article 3 of the CRC and Article 4 of the ACRWC), the right to life survival and development (Article of the 6 CRC and Article 5 of the ACRWC), and the right of the child to participate (Article 12 CRC and Article 7 of the ACRWC). These principles are also part and parcel of other modern African child legislation.

A detailed account of the similarities between the Angolan Children’s Act and other instruments falls beyond the objectives of this contribution. However, I would like to highlight some of the major contributions (amongst others not discussed here) as a result of the Act, in efforts to advance children’s rights.

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The State’s ineptitude or indisposition to deal with Eastern Cape education is a continuous violation of children’s rights

akho_ntanjanaAuthor: Akho Ntanjana
Legal intern, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), Banjul, The Gambia

Without citing any empirical evidence, it is known that the quality of school facilities has an indirect effect on learning and ultimately on its output.  For instance, in a study carried out in India (1996), out of 59 schools in a region, only 49 had structures. Of these 49 schools, 25 had a toilet, 20 had electricity, 10 had a school library and four had a television set. In this study, the quality of the learning environment was strongly correlated with pupils’ achievement in Hindi and mathematics.

Further, a research study was conducted in Latin America that included 50 000 students in grades 3 and 4, it was found that learners whose schools lacked classroom materials and had inadequate libraries were significantly more likely to show lower test scores and higher grade repetition than those whose schools were well equipped (see the United Nations Children’s Fund’s paper ‘Defining Quality Education’). There are many other studies done even in Africa, for example in Botswana, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, indicating similar outcomes.

There seem to be a correlation between good school infrastructures, other quality dimensions (inter alia the quality of content, psychological aspects, quality processes involved) and the achievement of higher grades by learners. In this opinion piece, I examine the state of education in the Eastern Cape, and the failure by the South Africa government to meet its constitutional and international obligations to provide basic education.

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