“My role model is the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Ambassador Amina Mohamed,” said 13-year-old Abdi Ali from Iftin Primary School.
“When I grow up, I would like to help my parents and children like me.” This is the aspiration, dream and hope of 16-year-old Nyasire Pam Tek from Dadaab refugee camp. Like many children her age, fleeing from her country and losing a parent in the run away from South Sudan is not easy. With the threat of war, many children end up missing on their childhood and access to basic education.
What about us? A song that resounds from one of UNICEF’s world Childrens day videos. Children across Kenya, especially the most vulnerable are asking this question. They are asking leaders; parents and they also ask themselves. They do it all the time.
In a region where girls are still under the threat of early child marriage, the children present at the workshop were only a representative of just how much more needs to be done, how many of them not only need to know their rights but also have proper systems and structures to support those rights. Many girls start their periods and have trouble every month. It’s always one challenge after the other. Either they lack sanitary towels or water to shower during the period and even worse when there are no toilets.
“What kind of Kenya do I want for myself and for other children? I want to change just one thing. My mother told me (Jamaat naageed, jika ay kudam beysa) ;that the University Education of a woman will end up in the kitchen. This is what I want to end. I want to study and be a great person.” I heard those words from one of the girls and I almost shed a tear. I felt sorry for many children like her who have dreams and aspirations, who want to get out of poverty and empower their communities and they may never get there because of words like this.
Zeinab Ahmed, a Child Protection Specialist at the UNICEF Garissa Zonal Office gave an outstanding breakdown of Childrens rights. The right to protection from harmful cultural rites, right to protection from sexual exploitation, right to leisure and recreation, right to privacy. “Childrens rights are of paramount importance. You are important. Speak up whenever someone tries to take them away,” she explained.
“Tell other children about the importance of education. We still have many of you who are missing out. However, we know there are still many children who go to schools that don’t have enough classrooms, teachers. Others are orphans and lack school fees. UNICEF gives children the opportunity to go to school by supporting different education as one of its programs. For example, we mobilize children to return to school by working with the county and national governments to rescue children from early marriage and access proper nutrition,” explained Pauline Akinyi, Education Specialist at the UNICEF Garissa Zonal Office.
We had a very special moment when the Cabinet Secretary for education came in for the workshop. It’s interesting how it all went down. During the introduction session, we had a cool way of helping the children to introduce themselves. We write down questions which they answer. One of the questions asked, who is your role model? Thirteen-year-old Abdi Ali from Iftin Primary School was lucky to pick this question. “My role model is the Cabinet Secretary for Education for Ambassador Amina Mohamed,” he said. Coincidentally, the C.S was in the same venue during her routine check of the ongoing Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and she was kind enough to walk into our workshop room upon request. Abdi’s dream came true. It was magical.
As the day came to a class, I had the opportunity to share a ride with them as they were dropped off in their different homes. They were excited. They chatted about the day’s event and how glad they were to have spent it learning about how to raise their voices where it mattered. I watched one of the girls get off the car and her sister running to the gate to meet her at the sound of the engine. It was beautiful sight. I imagine she was going to tell her all about her day
Let us all pledge to celebrate children and young people on the 20th of November by Going Blue.