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Koinonia Children Shine At Celebrations to Mark the International Day of the African Child

June 16th 2008: Creative, well rehearsed performances staged by children from Koinonia’s Ndugu Mdogo and Anita Homes enthralled attendees at the 2008 International Day of the African Child celebrations held at Isinya, Kajiado district.

Thirty children from Koinonia’s Ndugu Mdogo and Anita Homes staged various spectacular performances at the 2008 International Day of the African Child celebrations, which were held at the Maasai Rural Training Centre grounds in Isinya, a small dusty town in Kajiado District.

An estimated 500 people attended the event, whose underlining theme was “Promoting Child Participation”. The Koinonia children stole the show with their unique blend of native African folk tradition with elements of Kenya’s emergent urban youth culture, succeeding to appeal to all the diverse ages and backgrounds in the audience.

In their language use, the children chose a mix of English, Kiswahili and Sheng – an informal “street” language – to achieve a permeating eloquence that drove the message straight home, regardless of whether a listener was a pupil, youngster, teacher, parent, local authority official, or an incidental walk-in guest.

Various other schools and juvenile groups from Kajiado district presented poems, songs and dances, while medics attached to St Paul's Children Home in Bulbul held a free Medical Camp on the sidelines of the celebrations.

Fifteen boys from Ndugu Mdogo opened their stage act with a well delivered poem on the ravages of HIV/AIDS, initiating the sheen before 13 year old Duncan Njoroge brought the house down with a freestyle rap recital that urged Kenya’s neophyte generations – the children and the youth – to empower themselves through information, education and enlightenment.

Duncan’s witty vocabulary, naughty intonation and rapid delivery of rhymes enthralled the crowd into sporadic cheers as his backing troupe gyrated to the rhythm of his words. The Ndugu Mdogo children exited the open air podium with similar spectacle; a number of them somersaulted their way out as the crowd wowed with modest awe.

The Anita girls took the stage immediately after Ndugu Mdogo and kept the lofty standards with a Sheng poem on female sanctity. The girls’ well synchronized recitals, apt gestures and unintimidated expression of themes endeared them to the audience, which continually punctuated their performance with hearty applause. One humorous stanza that dwelt on the tactics used by predatory males to have their way with innocent girls especially had the crowd marveling at its preciseness.

The girls also presented an enchanting English poem entitled “My Fellow Christians” and closed with a vigorous Meru dance to the sound of African drums.
Speaking later as the celebrations drew to a close, Kajiado District Children’s Officer Ruth Mboya called on grassroots leaders to mobilize local communities into adopting the preservation of children’s rights as a part of their daily lives. Ms. Mboya used rote memorization to teach the children in the audience the importance of reporting any maltreatments meted out against them.

Isinya District Officer David Simiyu Wanyonyi, who was chief guest of honour at the celebrations, reminded parents that they were obliged to take their children to school, adding that the government’s free primary school programme was mandatory. Condemning retrogressive cultural practices like female genital mutilation, child labour and early marriage, Mr. Wanyonyi cited the legal effectiveness of the Children’s Act 2001 as an indication of the government’s commitment to the protection of the rights of all Kenyan children.

The International Day of the African Child is an annual event that commemorates the June 16,1976 ‘Soweto Uprising’, when hundreds of black South African students were shot and killed by Apartheid police in Johannesburg as they protested against the imposition of Afrikaans – the language of the country’s oppressive Boer minority - as the medium of instruction in their schools.

The event has been celebrated every year since 1991, when the then Organization of African Union (now the African Union) declared it an annual pan-African event focusing on the wellbeing of Africa’s children.

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