File picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Child Protection Week 2020: Children need our protection every day of the year

By Adeshini Naicker Time of article published Jun 4, 2020

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Child Protection Week 2020 runs from the 31 May – 07 June 2020. The theme for this year is “Let us protect children during Covid-19 and beyond”. 

Whilst the campaign is spearheaded by the Department of Social Development the call is for all South African citizens to actively participate in the protection and promotion of children and their rights. It alludes to the fact that this responsibility is not only that of government departments and organisations but the responsibility of every South African.

Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution states that “every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services, as well as the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation”. Our post-apartheid constitution places paramount emphasis on children’s rights however one has to question the fact that a huge percentage of our children live in abject poverty and the impact that this has on the realization of children’s rights. 

While our children experience many threats, the most common threat to children is poverty as this contributes to the number of poor children living in conditions that do not allow for access to rights such as basic healthcare or an acceptable level of education. Poverty also means that the safety and security of our children are compromised particularly in informal settlements and in townships where sometimes as many as 12 -15 individuals live in a two bedroomed home.  

Grants provided by the government sadly does not cover even the basic needs and often this needs to be shared. Poor children are also often an easy target for gang recruitment which leads to the number of children breaking the law increasing by the day. These children are also often the focus of traffickers.  This can be attributed to the absence of security in the form of safe homes.

And then we have the very people that they are entrusted with by the State violate their rights. Section 28(2) of the Constitution says that the “…best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.” 

Children often due to their age, emotional and physical incapacity are unable to enforce their rights by themselves. Unfortunately, very often the choices made by the adult they are entrusted with are not often in the best interests of the child. 

The fact that they cannot claim these rights themselves, makes the responsibility of the State and others so much greater. If we are adhering to the “best interest of the child rule” all children that are the recipient of a foster care grant should be monitored regularly rather than just four times a year, those in receipt of a child support grant similarly so. 

For us at Childline KZN, Child Protection Week is every day, 365 days a year. For over 20 years South African citizens have received a call to action for a week every year to take action on behalf of our children, the most vulnerable in our society.  Should this not be encouraged to be an everyday occurrence? 

Long after the elaborate opening and closing ceremonies of Child Protection Week and the hundreds of programs and activities that take place during this week, we find those green ribbons and pamphlets thrown on roadsides and in refuse bins and the scourge of child abuse continues. Those street children that were given a meal by the kind stranger who had seen all the hype surrounding Child Protection Week is now forgotten, they will again go to bed hungry. 

Sadly our statistics over the past few years indicate that 99 percent of our victims come from disadvantaged and impoverished backgrounds.
 
In the build-up to Child Protection Week a 10-month-old in Ladysmith was burnt to death, allegedly by the mother, a few days later in the same area a foetus was found dumped.  In the midst of Child Protection Week, a 6-year-old initially reported kidnapped, was found dead a few days later in sugar cane fields.  

The campaign seems to draw the attention of the non-offenders but the question we need to ask ourselves is, is it really making an impact on offenders and would-be offenders. 

Whilst the hype around Child Protection Week definitely does create an impact, it is the opinion of many myself included, that more focus needs to be on preventative action throughout the year.  

This could be implemented in various ways, including easier but more stringent access to grants, continuous awareness on how these grants need to be utilized as well as psycho-social support for both adults and children. This should be done in succession without one having to wait months for a follow-up.

The presence of a social worker in every school, both primary and secondary school will provide much need support to many children in need of intervention. This will also significantly contribute to a drop in the rate of delinquent behaviour. 
 
Unfortunately, far too many children remain vulnerable to various threats to their wellbeing and in many instances, their lives. In order to curb this and see a decline in the stats the entire country needs to mobilise every day of the year.  
 
Organisations and departments tasked with the wellbeing of orphans and vulnerable children need to carry out these tasks every day with the highest degree of integrity, urgency and passion in order to make and see a change.  
 
These actions will ultimately be mirrored by all citizens, which is needed to end the pandemic of child abuse and violation of rights long after Covid-19 is gone. 

* Adeshini Naicker is the acting director of Childline in KwaZulu-Natal.

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