International Humanist and Ethical Union, that is the world union of Humanist organisations says in its website that there are 15 million children, "constituting 54 per cent of the total of 28 million".
It adds that over 12.6 million Kenyans, majority of who are children, live in absolute poverty, this despite Kenya having ratified the "Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on July 31, 1990. Also, enactment of the Children Act of 2001 gives effect to these obligations under the CRC and African Children’s Charter. Since ratification, Kenya has been working to implement its ideals in domestic legislation concerning childcare and protection."
This all makes for very persuasive literature, but reality on the ground shows these to be conservative estimates.
This year marked a watershed for the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme that was a key and defining pledge of the Kibaki administration when it took the reigns of power.
The first batch of this programme sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, Standard Eight examination last month to much chest thumping and a lot of optimism that the first fruits of the scrapping of Section 2A were beginning to form and fall off the tree of the Second Liberation.
In fact, elsewhere in this edition, we report that pioneers of the FPE are pregnant with anxiety ahead of receiving their KCPE examination results tomorrow with Education Minister Sam Ongeri’s announcement of the results for 746,409 candidates.
Sadly, many newspaper reports continue to show millions of their counterparts herding livestock in bleak, windswept savannah scrubland, others lining our highways hawking groundnuts, sweets, bananas, cigarettes and airtime scratch cards.
News clips focus on children picking coffee berries or laden with sacks and baskets of raw produce headed for market centers.
Pictures of slums depict dirt-filled hovels teeming with school-age children skipping through raw sewage. Moviemakers are trooping to these informal settlements to shoot Slumdog Millionaire-type films and HIV and Aids-ravaged families, hoping to find one or two who have triumphed over adversity and hope they have the makings of a blockbuster.
But this is changing with the slew of legislation targeting the rights of the child first with formation of a Ministry dealing with children’s issues to spearhead matters to do with their education, health, welfare, rehabilitation into society and many more, as the child-specific Government arm. Its achievements are many, but also, there is still a lot more on its pending tray.
A children’s court has been established so that minors are not railroaded into the adult justice system — usually with devastating consequences.
Politically, society has expressed a desire for a more youthful leadership to replace the Old Guard that had mastered impunity, old boy connections and bled State coffers dry.
In the last two general elections, a large percentage of elected representatives have largely been young people. And this percentage is bound to grow.
This week, however, the US Labour Department has upset the applecart with new revelations.
Even as India remains home to the greatest number of child labourers, followed by China, it is emerging that nations in sub-Saharan Africa have a much higher proportion of children — up to one-third of children under 14 — that go to work instead of school each day.
In this regard, the US has added Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Chad, El Salvador and Ethiopia to its list of countries that use child labour or forced labour.
The US report seeks to name and shame these nations that so violate the innocence of the child as an economic production too.
The report lashes out at the child workers of Uzbekistan and Myanmar, and questions why powerhouses like Pakistan and India still have no laws setting the minimum age for workers.
All in all, all countries that are addressing this blight through anti-poverty programmes and compulsory education like Brazil, Thailand, Jordan, Ivory Coast and Ghana come up for commendation. And that is why, after tomorrow’s headlines team with teenagers floating through Cloud Nine when KCPE results are released, adults, policymakers, civil society and the Ministry of Youth should re-energise efforts to ensure no child glides through life without formal education.
Even though Kenya is conspicuous for its absence from that US listing, protection of the rights of minors should occupy wakeful moments of all reasonable and progressive adults. The future starts with each one of us and the decisions we take on behalf of these God-given gifts.