Give us our childhood back, plead the children

Monday, June 2, 2014

Delft – As the country observes Child Protection Week, children have made an earnest appeal to parents and adults to protect, love and let them be children.

They made the call on Sunday during the launch of Child Protection Week, at Delft Technical High School, in the Western Cape.

The children, who over the past few weeks participated in youth dialogues, shared with Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini concerns and challenges facing the youth and children in Delft.

Gangsterism, child abuse, child neglect, rape, teenage pregnancy, racism, bullying, drug abuse and poverty are among the problems identified by the youth during the dialogues. The dialogues with children were facilitated by the Department of Social Development as a build up to the launch of the 2014 Child Protection Week.

About 300 children, mostly aged between 12 and 18 from six schools, participated in the dialogues, where they looked at issues around child protection and children’s rights. 

The children told Minister Dlamini that they worry most about gangsterism, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy, which were at the top of the list of problems facing their communities.

“These are issues happening at our doorstep and affecting us. The children are afraid to walk in the street,” the children said in a report from their dialogues.

The summary of the dialogues was also presented through songs, poetry and stage playing.

Other learners, who spoke to SAnews, said while gangsters get arrested, they are being released soon after their arrest and continue to terrorise their communities.

“We are afraid to walk to school or play in the streets because they carry guns and shoot people,” one learner from Khayelitsha said.

In response to the children’s concerns, Minister Dlamini reminded the hundreds of children who packed the marquee, of their rights and how they should respond when faced with uncertain situations.

She said it was important for children to keep voicing their concerns, as this would bring more attention to their plight.

Minister Dlamini also signed a pledge on behalf of government and South Africans committing to protect children. 

“Children in South Africa live in a society with a Constitution that has the highest regard for their rights, equality and dignity.  Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse is not only part of our basic values, but an obligation clearly set out in Article 28 of the South African Constitution for us to ensure their well-being.  As South African citizens, we commit ourselves,” reads the pledge.

The children also echoed the international call for the safe return of the abducted Nigerian girls by shouting “Bring back our girls!”

Commitment to care

Child Protection Week aims to promote the safety, well-being, care and protection of children. 

Through the campaign, government and its partners raise awareness, as well as mobilise all sectors and communities towards understanding the perspective of holistic development regarding the care and protection of children. 

Various government departments will throughout the week participate in various activities to raise awareness on issues around the protection of children, especially children with disabilities.

South Africans are urged to wear a green ribbon to show their support to protecting the rights of children. – SAnews.gov.za

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