Mental Health on June 16th, Day of the African Child
L2S+Zim would like to join others in commemorating the Day of the African Child, 2021, which comes at a time when the world has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and we are expecting a third wave emanating from variants. The African Child has lost a lot, especially in terms of schooling, and it's painful that the child has been forced to do most of the work online when most African states are not yet ready to go digital abruptly.
The African Child has faced many challenges ranging from inequality, poverty, climate change, lack of access to education, to finally the COVID-19 pandemic, amounting many issues bedeviling the continent. Most African children have been exposed to harsh conditions that make them vulnerable to mental health conditions. These exposures to mental health issues include depression, anxiety of how they will get access to education, etc. Most of the children are from the rural areas where technology has yet to reach them while the burden of livelihood has been heaped onto them.
L2S+Zim is advocating for the mainstreaming of mental health topics in schools so that both teachers and children are aware of the dangers posed by mental illness. The children who sacrificed their lives in June of 1976 did it for every child so that they could access proper education. Hectar Peterson and others became pacesetters for every African Child, and today, as we commemorate this day, we remember what they sacrificed for every child on the continent. Their efforts are yielding positive results as children are now accessing education that is critical for their survival. And though some hurdles are still faced and new ones arise, the positive steps gained shall not and cannot be reversed.
Mental health should be high on the agenda as we commemorate this day under the stressful and traumatic COVID-19 crisis across the globe. Productivity will be increased once the children and the elderly can seek medical attention for mental health issues - a process critical for any society. Africa as a continent should increase its health-seeking behaviour on mental health so that depression, anxiety, bipolar problems and more are dealt with and in productive, supportive, and effective manners. As a Chapter of Letters to Strangers, we wish to carry more online activities with school across the country so that we can create a mass movement of citizens with health-seeking behavior. Day of the African Child should be commemorated to uplift the African Child to take action on climate change, poverty, inequality, lack of access to quality education, and more so that mental wellness is a lived reality. Without equality, access to education, access to clean water, access to clean environment and other basic rights, mental health becomes an issue to the African child today. Every government and partner should prioritize mental health for the children and mainstream it across sectors.
This day came as a result of students who responded to an oppressive South African apartheid regime that forced children to learn Afrikaans in schools rather than use their local languages in education. What started as a school uprising ended up spreading throughout the country and also the continent, receiving worldwide support after the media showed a child who was shot being carried by another student. Several international bodies suspended South Africa as a result, and this commemorative date hence came about. The African Union declared this day as the Day of the African Child, and the day was later adopted by world bodies to show solidarity with African Children.
L2S+Zim advocates for a continent-wide advocacy effort on mental health, beginning by targeting youths in Manicaland and rest of the country and beyond through letter-writing exchanges across the continent for young people and more.
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