Forty-three years ago, on 16th June 1976, ten thousand black South African students took to the streets, marching as a symbol of protest because of the poor quality of their education.Two years before, in 1974, The South African Minister of Bantu Education and Development issued the Afrikaans Medium Decree, requiring all black schools to integrate Afrikaans into its curriculum while allowing white schools to continue teaching in English – the main language. These sentiments were widely resented among black populations, as it forced the students to focus on learning the language instead of engaging with the material taught being taught in schools. With the apartheid serving as the situational and historical background of this decree, black South African students rallied together.
The Day of the African Child emerged from this moment in history. Starting in 1991, the Organization of African Unity declared 16th June a day of commemoration and remembrance for those who marched. This is not the only purpose of the day, as the Day of the African Child also serves as an opportunity to raise awareness of the need to improve children’s education across the continent of Africa. This year, the theme has been declared as “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First.”According to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), a humanitarian crisis can result from either natural or man-made factors. Consequently, these crises violate and overlook children’s rights. This year’s theme recognizes that children in Africa face a greater majority of these humanitarian crises, calling on a system that already disenfranchises and often overlooks children’s rights.
Wells of Hope Ministries (WOHM)upholds this purpose, as the Non-Government Organisation provides support and education to children with incarcerated parents. WOHM identifies with this vulnerable population, recognizing the unique challenges impacting these children. Oftentimes, in over ninety percent of cases, the breadwinner of a family must face the consequences of incarceration, leaving these children traumatized by the separation, faced with community stigma, poor conditions and struggling to meet their basic needs. The situations created for these children are another form of humanitarian crisis, leaving the children exposed to forced labor, early marriages, forced recruitment, human trafficking, sexual violations and they are predisposed to the same predicament as their parents.
A student at Wells of Hope High School describes her experiences, “after my father was imprisoned, villagers … stole our family property, animals and destroyed businesses my Dad had in the trading centre. They even looked for us (his children)… so that they could kill us too… the whole family was on the run.” This experience does not exist in a vacuum – all 158 children at Wells of Hope have their own stories of pain, love, and hardship.Wells of Hope, however, provides these children with a new future – a future characterized by resilience, forgiveness, and faith. The organization’s primary mission is to support these children and remind them of their individuality, as their parents, and not them as children, committed any of these crimes, and therefore, do not deserve to be punished for them.Even as the needs of the organization continue to multiply, Wells Of Hope Ministries (WOHM) does not lose sight of its founding, forever committed to placing children’s rights first, ensuring that some of the country’s most vulnerable population have access to their rights.
On this Day of the African Child, Wells of Hope continues to stand in solidarity with the work being pursued and completed by those around them. Wells of Hope pledges to continue this work and appreciates all efforts from everyone, including, but not limited to, friends, sponsors, volunteers, donors, for their continued support in providing a better future to children with incarcerated parents.