EDUCATION - 16 June 2024

Day of the African Child: Noma overcomes a difficult start to pursue her education

The world marks the Day of the African Child on 16 June – this year under the theme "Education for all children in Africa".

Conceptualized by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), the Day of the African Child is celebrated at national and continental levels. African governments, representatives of children, child and youth-led organizations, NGOs, CSOs, international organizations and others gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of children in Africa.  

The Day of the African Child raises public awareness about issues affecting children, such as access to quality education. Children growing up in vulnerable situations are particularly susceptible to a lack of education or poor-quality education which impedes on their basic human rights.

Children without parental care are often exposed to various forms of abuse, violence, and neglect, which severely impact their development and disrupt their education.


From unhappy child to "Miss Kindergarten"

Noma* from South Africa exemplifies the resilience and potential of Africa's children and youth. She arrived at the rural SOS Children’s Village in Mthatha Eastern Cape in 2000, when she was five years old. Noma and her three siblings were brought there by a local social worker because their mother was unable to care for them due to her ill-health.

Noma’s story highlights the potential for breaking the cycle of poverty despite the odds. Although she was among the estimated 35 million children without parental care in Africa, she has managed to overcome her circumstances.

Noma was admitted in the care of Ms. Dlamini*, a now retired SOS Children’s Villages caregiver. Initially, Noma struggled to adjust. Unhappy at first, she soon made new friends. When schools opened, she started attending the SOS Children’s Villages kindergarten. Her enthusiasm for school was evident - she would cry when it was time to go home. Noma’s involvement in kindergarten activities earned her the nickname "Miss SOS Kindergarten."


Academic awards

Noma's academic journey continued at the Hermann Gmeiner Primary School, where she excelled from grade 1 to grade 9, consistently earning academic awards. Encouraged by Ms. Dlamini, who often helped with her schoolwork, Noma also played netball, both in the village and at school. 

Transitioning to a local high school after grade 9 was a significant challenge for Noma. "Starting high school was not easy. It was the first time I had to study outside of the SOS Children’s Village. I was afraid, but my sister convinced me that she would always support and look after me,” Noma recalls. She persevered, completing grades 10 through 12. 

After taking a gap year to work, Noma applied to Walter Sisulu University, one of South Africa's largest. She was accepted and pursued an Advanced Diploma in Public Management, which she completed successfully. Noma graduated in May 2024 and is currently seeking employment, with aspirations to continue her studies. 


*Name changed to protect privacy 

Story by Lebo Phaweni

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