On Day of the African Child, Activist Wants Better Opportunities for Liberia’s Youth

MONROVIA, Montserrado – A social rights advocate in Liberia has stressed the need for better opportunities for children in the country.

Vandalark Patricks, Executive Director of Campaigners for Change, called on the government, parents and communities to promote opportunities for children through development initiatives.

Patricks said many children do not have access to programs that would develop their personal capacities for future undertakings. He stated that most parents send their children to sell during school hours to win bread for their families.

“With no regards to the rights of children, many parents deny their children the right to an education and would rather send them into the streets to sell when they should be in school,” he told The Bush Chicken.

George Flomo, a 13-year-old boy, told The Bush Chicken he lives with a friend of his mother who promised to enroll him in school when she took him from his parents two years ago in rural Bong. He said he has not yet registered for school as promised to his parents and is instead being forced to sell cold water all day.

“I [didn’t finish] the first grade and would like to go back to school,” he said.

Patricks also critiqued early child marriage and for contributing to the high rate of poverty in the country.

“Many parents support these early marriages because of they are unable to economically sustain their families,” he said.

 Campaigners for Change Executive Director, Valdalark Patricks –Photo credit: Gbatemah

Campaigners for Change Executive Director, Valdalark Patricks, Photo credit: Gbatemah Senah

Fatta Sheriff, a resident of Dolo Town told The Bush Chicken that she was married off by her parents at the age of 14. She said the early marriage has caused detriment to her personal happiness as a human being.

“I am from the Muslim background and got married when I did not even understand the implications of marriage,” she said.

Janet Mollay, a student of the Firestone School System, called upon parents to prioritize education for their children. She said if a child acquires a quality education, he or she can improve their family status and successfully contribute towards society.

“The best way to empower a family is through education and not by forced marriage,” she said.

The Day of the African Child is commemorated every year on 16 June by member states of the African Union, and its partners.

According to the African Movement for Children, this occasion was created to commemorate the 1976 uprisings in Soweto in which an estimated 20,000 school children protested against apartheid with hundreds being killed by police officials.

The day further presents an opportunity to focus on the work of all actors committed to the rights of children on the continent and consolidate their efforts to adequately addressing the obstacles that are barriers to children rights. The Day of the African Child also provides an occasion for governments, international institutions and communities to renew their on-going commitments towards improving the plight of children by organizing activities aimed at them.

Featured image courtesy of Right to Play-Liberia

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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