World Children’s Day is celebrated every year on 20 November to commemorate the Declaration of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly in 1959. It is a day for celebrating children across the world as well as for promoting their welfare and integrating all children across the world into international togetherness.
The oldest stadium in Africa and the Arab world witnessed Egypt’s main World Children’s Day celebration last week, when the Alexandria Stadium embraced more than 150 children from different charitable societies and associations. Some of the children were orphans, and others had disabilities. Despite their differences, all were able to share their happiness and celebrate their childhood.
The day was organised by the Alexandria governorate under the auspices of governor Mohamed Al-Sherif and in collaboration with Ihna Al-Kheir, a charity, and Rotary Egypt.
A marionette performance by the group Al-Rewad crowned the day with a dazzling show that stunned the audience. The group consists of 11 children who have different disabilities. It is the first group of its kind in Egypt and the Middle East, and it puts on various shows across the country.
“Few people can imagine the skills and abilities of the children,” said Hesham Nassret, the head of Al-Rewad, which is affiliated to Alexandria’s Al-Anfoushi Cultural Centre.
“They train very hard so that they can put on their performances. They do much better than many other children who don’t have disabilities,” he added.
“The children can do nine shows, including many complicated ones like Al-Leila Al-Kabeera, Tannoura, Blue Canary, and many more,” Nassret said.
Some of the children are champions in their fields. Abdel-Rahman Mohamed, nine, was one of them. “I am very happy that I am here today with my sisters and my father. My father got a special invitation to come, and I am very glad that we are here, just having fun,” he said.
Mohamed was honoured by the Alexandria governor for his achievements in swimming and running. “Having 20 medals is not enough for me. I am hungry for more, and I want to represent Egypt in international competitions,” he added.
Governmental and non-governmental organisations jointly celebrated Children’s Day in Alexandria
Mohamed has had a physical disability since the day he was born. Today, he wants to be a doctor so that he can treat other children. “I never want to see a child suffering from a disease. So, I will do my best to be a good doctor when I grow up,” he said.
Farah, his six-year-old sister, shares the same dream. However, she thinks that this year has been different for her and her siblings. “I spent a lot of time at home this year because of Covid-19. I am glad we returned to school this September so we can have our lives back,” she said.
“This year has been a very different year for children. We shouldn’t forget that children need to go out, have sunlight and play,” said Nassamat Labib, head of the Maternal and Childhood Committee at Rotary Egypt.
“Many children have been in lockdown for more than four months. They have not been to school, and they have not been to clubs or had social interaction or played outside. Just to plan a day where they can actually live their childhood is a blessing right now,” Labib said.
“We are happy to run this day and to see the children playing outside in the sunlight. We hope we can repeat such activities again soon before any more lockdowns,” she added. “Sunlight, oxygen and physical exercise for children are essential for their growth and overall health.”
The committee has been focusing on children’s welfare, especially in poorer areas where it can contribute food, clothes and school supplies to children in need. It has also been preparing a series of Webinars for parents on relationships in the adolescent period that address some of the problems that can then emerge, including smoking or drugs.
To hold such a celebration of children at Alexandria’s multipurpose stadium was a dream come true for many people.
“The stadium has opened its doors to everyone in Alexandria. We are trying to create more activities that let people make use of their stadium. Anyone over 60 years old can come and walk there from 8 to 9 am, for example,” Mohamed Abdel-Razek, manager of the Alexandria Stadium, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
At the same time, the city has seen a series of thunderstorms, keeping some people away from enjoying outdoor activities. But the stadium administration insisted that the celebration would not be postponed.
“The children are very happy that they are here today. Many people are also happy that they are here in this stadium with its historic architecture,” added Abdel-Razek. “Nowadays, people often wait impatiently for events that can make them happy and entertain them.”
Children and sports are also often two faces of the same coin, especially on World Children’s Day. “I have a dream that all our children will have the opportunity to take part in sports and in sports activities. We should take care of youngsters who are talented and make sure we reach the right persons so that they can attain their dreams,” Abdel-Razek added.
Mona Mahmoud, chief executive of Ihna Al-Kheir, teamed up with young people to produce the event. They organised the shows, the aragoz (puppeteer) to amuse the children, the giant characters who went around with the children, and the food and gifts.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly