New Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says the 6th administration will work hard to accelerate efforts to protect and promote children’s rights.
Zulu made the remarks in response to receiving the Children’s Manifesto from children’s representatives at the launch of the 2019 national Child Protection Week at the Chris Hani Sports Complex in Orange Farm on Sunday.
In the manifesto, children demand to be protected from bullying, corporal punishment, harmful traditional practices and substance abuse. The parties also call on government to adequately address issues of child developmental rights, poor quality of education, teenage pregnancy and safe learner transport.
Zulu was sworn in as the Social Development Minister earlier this week, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the appointment of his National Executive on Wednesday.
Children from across the country took turns during the event to raise issues such as high crime rates, drug abuse, lack of educational resources, school dropout rates as well as high teenage pregnancies, urging the Minister to ensure government intervention.
“Budgets at council level are not always used to address the needs of children. When it comes to education, we have poor infrastructure, there is a lack of supply in study material. In instances you find that four children share a textbook yet they don’t live close to each other. The environment is not conducive for learning, the environment is not clean,” Masixole Lingwe from the Eastern Cape said.
He bemoaned the high number of child-headed homes. He said growing up under such difficult circumstances had devastating effects on minors.
“It is very devastating to have a child play two roles, being parents yet they themselves have to develop as children. Some even dropout [of school] so they can find jobs to feed their siblings,” he said.
Lingwe pleaded for government to ensure the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children.
Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament President, Shaun Masoga, who presented the manifesto to the Minister, said society should identify and uproot the risks children faced daily.
“In instances where children’s rights are violated, the Children’s Act provides measures that should be applied. Children should be given an opportunity to reach their full potential. They must be nurtured and grow up in a protected environment,” he said.
Zulu said the seven days of Child Protection Week were not enough to address all the challenges children in South Africa were faced with. She said she would lobby for the extension of the week-long programme to a month.
National Child Protection Week aims to raise awareness of the rights of children. Now in its 22nd year, the campaign will be observed under the theme ‘Let Us Protect All Children to Move South Africa Forward’.
“We were once children too… because we’ve experienced what you experience today, we are in a better position to respond to your needs.
“You also have a responsibility, your responsibility is to listen to your parents, listen to your teachers… to be responsible from home to communities and streets where you live,” said the Minister.
“But the greater responsibility rests with the parents, communities, churches, NGOs and all adults to protect children. That responsibility we should collectively take on so we can say that the children of today are the future,” she said.
Gauteng Social Development MEC Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe said unemployment and poverty were big contributors to the vulnerability of children.
“I call upon everyone: let’s just do our part. Do what you [can] do as a parent, do what you [can] as a child. Let’s give them their rights, let’s give them a plate of food, let’s give them shelter,” she said.
The official closing of the Child Protection Week campaign will take place on Sunday, 9 June in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga.