Human rights lie at the very heart of a democracy.
In South Africa, we are blessed with a Bill of Rights that enshrines the rights of all our people, and affirms the right of every person to human dignity, equality and freedom.
Children are human and so have human rights – they should not be badly treated just because they are small and helpless! No-one has the right to hurt, neglect or humiliate a child! Children need to know that they are valued – that they belong - that they matter and that their needs count. Building on a positive relationship with their parents and family, they learn sympathy and responsibility towards others. This good relationship, the foundation of human rights, should continue to develop at school and in all organizations that provide services for children. It underlies all children's rights to survival, protection, development and participation.
Our Constitution states that the needs of children should have priority.
But where are we getting it right and where do children still hurt?
- RIGHT: The number of children not paying fees rose from 0.7% in 2002 to 55.6% in 2011.
- HURTING: Nationwide some 582,000 children are out of secondary school. Corporal punishment has increased at schools, despite it being outlawed. Violence at school is also a barrier to quality education. About 27 per cent of high school learners feel unsafe at school while 16 per cent have been threatened with a weapon. The low standards of literacy and numeracy in schools are of grave concern. Link to CRC advocacy on education and children’s rights ?
- RIGHT: Grade R classes are being rolled out, nationally.
- HURTING: Only 34.5% of children aged 0-4 participated in an early childhood stimulation or education centre and there is very little guarantee of quality programmes, in suitable premises, run by capable staff. Link to CRC advocacy on ECD and children’s rights – THE FIRST 1000 DAYS
- RIGHT: Transmission of HIV from mother to child has been reduced from 8% in 2006 to 3.5% in 2011 (and to 2.5% in KwaZulu-Natal). Thanks to a recent campaign 20 million South Africans now know their HIV status and 1.6 million are on ARV treatment.
- HURTING: More than 5million children are HIV-positive.
The quality of care in our public health institutions is a matter for concern, together with poor infrastructure and problems in reaching the most vulnerable – girls and young women. Link to CRC advocacy on HEALTH & YEZINGANE and children’s rights.
THE RIGHT TO PLAY
is part of the education & health rights of all children - but neglected in South Africa
Play is vital for the development of emotional organization, representational language, social skills, and cognitive systems as well as for health and wellbeing.
It is ‘the serious business of childhood’. Link to CRC advocacy on PLAY and children’s rights
a. RIGHT: Nearly 30% of South Africans benefit from a Social Grant compared with 12.9% in 2002. About 10.3 million children depend on the government's monthly R270 child support grant.
b. HURTING: But nearly one million children who are eligible for grants do not receive them.
20% of families suffer from ‘inadequate access to food’ and in some areas one in four children are stunted in body and mind as a result. Link to CRC advocacy on POVERTY and children’s rights
a.RIGHT: Child Protection Units in the South African police service have been re-established. The Children’s Act and Child Justice Act have set out how to build social stability and rehabilitate young offenders – we do know what to do in the way of supporting families and also preventing prisons from becoming universities of crime for young convicts! b. HURTING: Child abuse and violence against children are still endemic. Many child victims of violence are children under one year of age. Children can also be perpetrators and according to ChildLineSA nearly half of all reported cases of child abuse are carried out by children against children).
Conviction of offenders is low. Police services are inadequately trained in dealing with child abuse and prosecuting offenders.
Prevention programmes to support families at risk, and juvenile prevention programmes – as envisaged in the Children’s Act and Child Justice Act have not been implemented and juvenile reform centres are not only inadequate but some have recently had to close due to lack of funding. Youth unemployment is growing and there is a risk of social instability leading to more crime and violence.
Link to CRC advocacy VIOLENCE PREVENTION – FIRST 1000 DAYS, ALSO SAFETY RULES FOR CHILDREN, CYBER-SAFETY, DISCIPLINE, BULLYING ...
a. RIGHT: There are several campaigns around accident prevention such as ‘Arrive Alive’ and ‘Paraffin Safety’ to help raise awareness and persuade families to take precautions against accidents to children. There are Road Traffic regulations on safety belts and child restraints, even if enforcement is negligible.
b. HURTING: According to the Medical Research Council, about 3 000 children under the age of 15 years die each year from accidents. The most common causes are pedestrian road deaths. Then come passenger road deaths, then drowning and burns. Link to CRC advocacy on safety from accidents & children’s rights
(References: the General Household Survey published in 2011 by ‘Statistics SA’, the Minister of Health Budget Speech, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of South Africa, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Newsletter, reports from UNICEF, ChildLineSA and Arrive Alive).