A young leader uses his voice to advocate for children’s rights
Pre-Devolution conference at Mpesa Foundation Academy.
This story was first published in the Star Newspaper
As a young leader, Samuel Smith, president of the Children’s Assembly, exudes confidence. At 14, he proudly executes his duties and fearlessly speaks for Kenya children, all across the country.
“It is a great honor to serve children,” says Samuel, “It’s been six months since my term began and my plate is full.”
Samuel was elected as president on 18 January 2023 for a two-year term.
A standard eight student at Mikindani Primary School, Samuel also serves as the school president.
The Children’s Assembly draws students from schools across all of Kenya’s 47 counties. The students play an active role in improving dialogue between teachers, students, and national leaders.
The young leaders also voice their concerns and propose solutions that impact the lives of children countrywide.
At a recent conference, Samuel spoke about a range of issues confronting children. The issues will now be presented to a national devolution conference to be held in Eldoret in mid-August.
“As children, we are concerned about some critical issues in our counties that are hindering our rights. We are concerned about education, housing, treatment for mental health, protection from the impacts of climate change, corporal punishment, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation (FGM).”
Samuel said other issues impacting children raised at the conference included poor infrastructure for children with disabilities, inadequate and unhealthy food, and child protection.
“Although child participation is a right, we are concerned that as children, we are not involved in decision-making processes.”
He said some children weren’t even aware of the provisions in the new Children’s Act.
Moreover, he said Kenyan children were calling for professional counselors to be hired in every school, ensuring children's access to mental health services.
Feeding programs that exist in Mombasa and Nairobi should also be rolled out across the country to ensure children don't miss school because of hunger. Security for children was especially important in northern Kenya and the Rift Valley counties.
Samuel says he became president of the assembly after being elected at the school level, regionally, and finally at a national poll where he presented his agenda.
“I always wanted to be a leader, to speak about the issues that affect us as children.”
He said he was optimistic that the Children’s Assembly would raise the profile of issues that impact children including education, health, child protection, and other issues.
“I am keen to work together with our leaders countrywide to find harmonious and lasting solutions.”
He said he hoped he would one day meet President Ruto so he could compare notes on how to make Kenya the best place in the world for children to grow up and be happy.
Samuel says he hopes to receive a scholarship to study at the Mpesa Foundation Academy and the International School of Kenya. He would then like to go on to study technology and political science at Oxford University in the UK, before becoming a child rights advocate.
UNICEF Kenya social protection specialist Robert Simiyu says children who took part in the devolution conference were the future leaders of Kenya.
"Counties are important in the delivery of quality services to the children,” said Simiyu.
He urged children to utilize the advocacy platforms in the schools and communities to bring to attention children's issues and hone their leadership skills.