Kabarak University, Save The Children partner for safe digital space for children

Nairobi Women County Rep Esther Passaris(Left)Vice Chancellor, Kabarak University Prof Henry Kiplangat,Expert Member African Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Welfare of the Child, Prof Robert Nanima and Director Programme Development and Quality Save the Children Keya and Madagscar Hellen Owiti launch the ceremony vol7 of Kabarak Journal of Law and Ethics during International Day of the African Child held at the Movenpick hotel in Nairobi. [Silas Otieno, Standard]

Kabarak University has partnered with a non-governmental organization to champion children's rights.

The partnership with Save The Children Kenya and Madagascar will see the two collaborate on issues of research and collection of evidence on matters of children.

Hellen Owiti, director of programme development and quality at Save The Children Kenya and Madagascar said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will lay a framework of engagement with the university's Law School.

''The framework will cover research, collection of evidence on how different laws in Kenya on children are implemented and joint publications on thought leadership around children rights in Kenya among other common areas of partnership,'' said Ms Owiti.

She welcome networks with Kabarak University to build a critical mass of lawyers that will be in tune with children's matters.

"Let us initiate a conversation on how all actors can come together to promote an investment in children that will enable us to tackle the challenges they are facing in this digital era,'' Ms Owiti said.

Kabarak University vice chancellor Prof Henry Kiplangat said the partnership will also include sensitizing people on the provisions of the Children Act, 2022, documentation of the journey towards the enactment of the Act, and unpacking the various provisions in the law for role players to implement the Act fully.

The officials were speaking on Friday in Nairobi when the two institutions held celebration of the International Day of The African Child.

The day was celebrated under with theme; "The Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment.''

Kiplangat said they have in the past done joint events including holding a conference in November last year on; ''Reflections on the rights of the child in Kenya: The past, present and the future.''

''The deliberations culminated in the publication of a special issue of the Kabarak Journal of Law and Ethics, volume 7(2023) by the Kabaraka University Press on children matters,'' said Prof Kiplangat.

The ceremony also included a panel discussion on rights of the child in the digital environment, a Model African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Children and a moot competition involving 15 Kenyan universities.

There was also a half-day conference during which a special edition of the Kabarak Journal of Law and Ethics dedicated to children rights was launched.

Kabarak Law School emerged the best team in the inaugural Model Moot competition and was represented by Levy Masinde and Esther Nasimiyu.

The VC said the increasing engagement of children in digital platforms through learning, participation, innovation, socialisation and play exposes them to a wide range of negative effects inadvertently.

''These effects include cyber-bullying, solicitation of minors, identify theft, online fraud and child pornography among other vices. It is therefore my hope that the contributions industry players, legal practitioners, academicians and other stakeholders to this conference today will expose areas that need reform to protect the rights of our children,'' Kiplangat said.

Justice Teresia Matheka, a judge of the High Court said the government has enacted laws like Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act, the Penal Code, The Children Act among others to address online child abuse.

Matheka is also the chairperson of the National Council of the Admiration of Justice (NCAJ) standing committee on Administration of Justice for Children in Kenya.

The NCAJ and Department of Children Services, she also said have both developed guidelines and manuals to combat Online Child Exploitation and Abuse (ACSEA).

''The development of these important documents was out of the realisation that we cannot run away from technology, but we can only seek avenues of protecting our children in the digital age,'' said Justice Matheka in her speech read by Justice Heston Mbogo.

She added: ''These legislative documents set the stage for internet service providers to implement appropriate child online protection and safety policies and strategies before making their services accessible to children.''

Prof Robert Nanima, who was also the chief guest, said statistics show that Africa is home to 400 million children.

Prof. Nanima is an expert member of the African Committee of Experts on Rights of Child (ACERWC).

He said that a closer look indicates a worrying trend that 13 percent of children have access to internet in southern and eastern Africa and one percent in Western and Central Africa.

''Another statistic show that five percent of people below 25 years in Africa have access to internet. If one takes the median of five and 13 percent, it gives about nine percent which accounts for 36 million children with access to the internet," said Prof Nanima.

Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris called for safe digital space even as Kenya grows in its digital economy since and it has negative and positive impacts.

''The digital environment has power to enhance education, bridge gaps and empower children to learn, grow and contribute positively to the society,'' said Passaris.

She added: ''However, it is important to remember that it can also be a dangerous place to them because they are vulnerable to online abuse, exploitation and discrimination, pornography violence, hate speech.''

Ms Passaris called for equipping the children with knowledge and skills to navigate the online world confidently, responsibly and foster an environment of inclusivity, where every child regardless of their background can harness the opportunities that technology brings.