“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“…kill not your children because of poverty –we provide sustenance for you and for them.” (Quran 6:151)
It is important to educate children and young people to know their rights and responsibilities online. By now, protecting the African children from the dangers or potential online risks should be one of the priorities of each and every one of us if we are concerned about cybersecurity. The serious problem confronting children and young people online is the laid back approach being adopted in safeguarding from illegal materials online because they in themselves do not recognize them as such.
There is a growing concern for social media abuses by children and young people, online grooming and bullying, suffice with the growing concern about addiction to computer games among others. These are situations which can be addressed by digital literacy and citizenship lessons. But until Africans get to understand the value of these skills on the growth and development of the future generation, the continent might suffer the consequences of not putting in place appropriate systems in addressing it’s cybersecurity challenges.
Hike For The Child Online (#Hike4TheChildOnline or Kili4TheAfricanChild) is to draw attention to the different levels of potential risks that children face and these risks are not really being considered for appropriate action. The hike has highlighted the issues of safety for children and young people and sort to advocate for a better and friendlier digital space in Africa for all especially children.
There are so many mountains in other African countries which are much easier to climb to make this news what it ought to be but I settled on Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro because it is the highest mountain in Africa and the only free-standing mountain in the world. The history behind the Uhuru peak of Kilimanjaro serves as a good basis (where the first African country declared its independence) in terms of location couple with all the difficulty in surmounting that mountain. Kilimanjaro is one of the World’s greatest wonders: a snow-covered mountain on the equator, an ocean of green forest surrounded by dry savannah.
The Road To Kilimanjaro
For me to be able to reach the desired goal of the cause did not come easy in any way. Losing toenails to the mountain should be a humbling experience for anybody no matter what. Taking into consideration the success rate pegged at 50-70%, I have had about 4 months of training in different forms of cardiovascular build-ups, endurance and resistance. These include varied forms of workout sessions of at least 10 kilometres of walk every other day coupled with the other days of gym workouts. I left for Dar Es Salaam afterwards to complete the preparation process.
Adaptation was also one of the major preparations I needed to have in order to be sure if my body will be able to cope with the pressures from the environmental issues of the mountain or not. This adaptation process did not come easy,3 days of acclimatization felt like two weeks of rigorous training already. I recalled sneezing and coughing profusely after a 5-kilometre walk but I was only observed and asked to not swallow medicines I have carried along. It’s not as if I love to swallow medication but I was willing to do so should the need be just to be fit to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro for the African child to be safe online.
“Don’t breath through your mouth; breath through one nose at a time will be one of the rules”.
Everything seems easy after acclimatization until the 3rd day into the trip where I was divided in thought if really I had made the right decision. The idea to climb Kilimanjaro to create awareness now seem a lot crazier to me a sober person. I was contemplating a retreat however the desire to bring about the desired change was so strong that a little prompt from one of the guides got me reprogrammed myself for the way forward.
Our brains are like machines, whatever you programme into it can work for you or against you. At that point of giving up, I have had to disconnect how my body feels from my mind just to be able to go far in the cause. This is the case for the child too when we help them get the right information into their minds now and not leave them to be corrupted by bad information they find online, we would be doing so much good to families, society and countries at large in Africa.
The journey continued on the Marangu route through all the huts and now to the Kibo Hut which is at an altitude of over 4000meters above main sea level, we set off for the 6km journey which lasted 14hours. Each iconic spot on the way had a unique experience for me: from the curve to Gilman’s Peak (5685m), from Gilman’s peak to Stella Point (5756m), then from Stella point to Uhuru peak (5895m). Each of these spots holds a unique experience just to share the Stella point to Uhuru: I remember taking three steps in a minute making sure that I do not have my joy short-lived by mountain sickness.
Before all of these was the battle of sponsorship where most people did not see the relevance of the climbing let alone Kilimanjaro, probably they are in the category of those who thought it was a crazy idea and I might die embarking on it so they made it clear to me that they were not going to support me. But here is the deal: when the dream becomes bigger than your person, you must evolve to become that person to carry through the dream, therefore, I was not distracted by any of those feedbacks. God being so good I had the Internet Solutions paying for my roundtrip and the Ghana Armed Forces Sports Complex sponsoring my gym sessions for 6 weeks.
A case for H20
I have never appreciated the importance of the letter O in H2O until I experienced a high level of dehydration at one of the camps denying me of my full sleep between 22hours and 3:15 am on one of the days. I went by the standard water limit for the day to avoid being disturbed by the urge to wake up to use the restroom at night but this is not what nature had in store for me. I had deprived myself of drinking much water and resorted to a glass of ginger each time I felt thirsty.
This left my body so dehydrated making it difficult to breathe for a sound sleep. It took a litre of water to get me a good sound sleep for 2 hours that lasted me for the whole day. We often take the oxygen we have at sea level for granted but I have appreciated the value of the oxygen we have all along taken for granted.
Sometimes in order to break the status quo, it’s important you ask the right question, wisdom and direction to make things happen for you. There came a stage in the journey when the Kilimanjaro Authority resorts to other means of telling me I was not meant to reach Uhuru peak. I was taken to be too big to reach the top and will pose a health concern to the guides, this decision got to me in awe because there was no way the energy level I had at that time could leave me at the first peak. The song ‘God will make a way became so real to me such that all I had left was to rely on His providence. From nowhere, the proposal came for the usual routine checkup as the prerequisite for progressing to the next stage. Indeed, God made a way: medical check passed and I was cleared to go to the next level from Gilman’s Point.
It is always good to remain committed to your resolve and in my case the cause for child online safety. From the time I made my intentions known, I will say I received about 80% DIScouragement than encouragement but the kind words and support of the 20% were good enough to keep me going to the extent that I have had to pinch myself after summiting that I have made it. I was so dazed at the Uhuru peak such that I didn’t realized the achievement until the 3rd day of the decent.
Pole pole in the interest of the silent majority
It is difficult to tell who can be hit my altitude, regardless of your preparation and fitness you can be affected by altitude and this is one key risk one needs to guard against in the quest to conquer the mountain. Dealing with the mountain sickness of headaches, nausea, and fatigue requires that you play by the rules. Being obedient to your guides can go a long way to helping you overcome these risks and make you a winner.
I summited with two gentlemen out of the group of twelve. Whatever you set out to do, there are bound to be obstacles but your ability to strategize to deal with all that may come up will go a long way to making you an overcomer. Of course, because we are not going to give up on our call for child online safety and wellbeing. The reason we have made the #Hike4TheChildOnline an annual event across the continent with the support of our partners to remind ourselves of the responsibility towards children and young people in Africa.
This plaque is by the summit.
For me if we as Africans want to promote the safety of children in the digital space, it must all show in our commitment. This commitment goes beyond the lip service we pay to the maxim ”children are the future” to practical strategies to ensuring that we equip the children with the appropriate skills which could go a long way to influencing how they behave and react to situations they have and would confront online.