Celebrating Day of the African Child 2016

The day of the African is celebrated on June 16 annually. This event is in honor of the South African children that were killed in 1976 as they demanded their rights to quality education. We have an article written by Amokeye Adi, reflecting on the day of the African child and the use of indigenous African languages:

“Today, we celebrate the children of Africa. We remember those brave over hundred South African school children, martyred in Soweto for demanding their rights to identity and a sovereign human existence in their own cosmopolitan space. We hear the echoes of a history we forgive but do not forget. We feel the pulses of the forces of afrocentricism and eurocentricism at an age long war. And here, I write about the reason why those South African children were killed: the language question which already occupies a large space in African discourses. Africa, our Africa, given independence all these years ago has yet to wash off the reality of western imperialism from her mind’s shores and this is not so much of what Africa bore under imperialism as what we have done to ourselves, what we’ve accepted to live by, what we hand down to our children and how it affects us as a people. I remember being ashamed, when I was a little kid, of speaking my native language in public and I remember swelling with pride when someone said to my mother, “your children speak very good English.” I wouldn’t feel the same way if they said I spoke perfect Bekwarra (my indigenous language). I’ve had to consciously overcome this. I remember how it was prohibited to use an indigenous language at school, even in a conversation with a friend and I know many Nigerians, now, even now, who proudly say, “oh please, I can’t speak my native language” and I guess that applies to many other African countries. I hear children sneeringly say “Hmmn, what’s that?” when they listen to indigenous languages, and I shake my head. We’ve taught our children to disrespect their languages. How wonderful! Over hundred children killed in South Africa for demanding that respect be accorded their languages and here we are, ashamed of the use of the same languages that people died for. And then we associate class and prestige to our colonial languages and so if you can’t speak those languages perfectly, you are uncivilized. Our languages are our identity, the preserve of our cultures and no foreign language can capture our unique experiences like our indigenous languages can but with each abuse of an African language, we allow an erosion of our heritage, the only one we can truly call ours. While it is okay to allow and encourage our children to learn these foreign languages because it widens their horizons, it is taboo to teach them that their languages are inferior to any other. It goes beyond merely the issue of speaking a language to how it affects the way they regard themselves. If their languages are inferior, it follows that they are inferior and the African child has a right to a better self-esteem, a right to know that they can be everything and anything their western counterparts can be, a right to their heritage. And so as we celebrate the children of Africa today, let us remember that we owe our children the duty to mold them into adults who have enough regard for who they are and where they come from, who recognize that this is the land that God has given them, who have enough centricism of Africa to renovate their fatherland.”

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