Cape Town - A comprehensive and groundbreaking report tells how a range of factors work to keep children trapped in abject poverty.
The report, “Poverty Traps and Social Exclusion Among Children in South Africa”, by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), also reveals how other children have countless opportunities from birth.
It focuses on health and nutrition, education, social and family effects, and geographical location.
It also looks at social mobility, policy experiments, and the way forward.
Lindiwe Mokate, commissioner on basic education and children at the SAHRC, said: “Poverty, inequality and exclusion are hallmarks of a highly iniquitous society.
“For the rights of all children to be realised, it is essential that this gap – and the resultant chasms in service delivery and overall quality of life – be removed.”
Children were a segment of the population prone to becoming trapped in poverty.
They were therefore “the most logical site for successful poverty-ending intervention”, Mokate said.
Among the more alarming findings was that the incidence of maltreatment of children was extremely high in comparison with international figures.
The researchers found previous studies had grossly underestimated the link between early-life exposure to disease and the long-term effects of this.
Also, differences between rich and poor children in reading and mathematics were much higher than in other African countries.
The report does not only analyse the situation of South Africa’s youngest citizens, it includes a high proportion of information that has a bearing on the quest for the way forward.
It emphasises the value of policy frameworks, describes successful interventions and gives comprehensive lists of recommendations.
Said Mokate: “The purpose of the report is to contribute to efforts geared to the implementation of the National Development Plan Vision 2030.”
The National Development Plan’s aim – to eliminate poverty in South Africa by 2030 – would not be “feasible without a greater understanding of how some children have escaped poverty and exclusion while others have not, especially considering the implementation of democratic and economic reforms in the mid- to late 1990s”.
The report has answered a call from those in the development sector who say that, after 20 years of democracy, the poverty gap remains unacceptably large.
“Inequality remains stubbornly high,” said Isobel Frye, director of the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute.
“Until there is sufficient redress of this, whether through fiscal policy or other policy instruments, the potential to address poverty is dramatically weakened, according to the 2006 World Bank World Development Report findings.”