By Mampe Ntsedi
The invisible members of the society during crisis and emergency
The overview of state of the child in 2020, is quite a difficult topic to deal with especially because no impact study has been done. In terms of protection it gets worse when one reflects on what has happened since the beginning of the year. The building of the Children’s Hospital by the Fund provides hope that not all is doom and hopelessness. While we celebrate this achievement knowing that some children’s health issues will be met, it remains a challenge on what needs to be done to protect children.
The country saw an unprecedented rise of violence in schools and communities which led to the Fund asking its strategic partners and leaders to reflect on how the country has treated children. It seemed that as a country no one is accountable to the children, when a child dies in school no one takes responsibility. Last year we initiated the campaign theme “We Failed Them”. We had failed the children who died in the pit latrines, we had failed numerous children who died on the roads of South Africa on their way to school commuting from their communities. Part of the reason for the long distance travelling is because education where they live is not of the quality their parents’ want them have.
The new decade has not been any different. The country is fighting one crisis after another. The nation was in mourning for most of the first part of the year with the amount of children who died in schools. As if this was not enough a woman lost three of her children in one take, she lost her family’s future, her legacy in one go, why because she wanted a better education for her children. The policy says children should not travel more than five (5) km from home to access education, but that is not the case. Children wake up as early as 5 am to get into a taxi to get quality education. This is not what should be happening the fight for access to education in suburbs should not be an issue 25 years later. The government should be prioritizing quality education in every township and every suburb. Access to education is the right that South African children have guaranteed in the constitution. Access to quality education should never lead to vulnerability and creating unsafe conditions for children and their families.
As if the deaths of children were not enough, the coronavirus hit us. Oh what a start of the decade! Never before has the world agreed to be in solemn agreement in how to deal with a problem: wash your hands, stay away from each other, we all need to flatten the curve. I am not sure the reason why the care for children is not high on the agenda for politicians as it is when it comes to the coronavirus. It might be because it is said that while children can get the virus, but it does not progress to dangerous state. Plans were provided on how and what everyone should do during the period of the lockdown for instance, there is a plan for women should they find themselves vulnerable and abused.
There has not been any strategy that has been provided for children during the lockdown. Children just know that they have to stay at home with their parents and guardians. Parents need to support their children to spend a minimum of two (2) hours studying per day. The one problem with this is that parents are anxious and scared because they are also trying to understand the crisis and how it impacts their income.
It looks like children only exist when they receive education, but their rights to access healthcare, protection and safety does not seem to be a priority. Children have been instructed to stay at home longer than usual and I am not sure if parents have enough information to explain to their children why they are all at home. Children are told to wash their hands. Access to water and sanitation is major problem in most rural and township schools, as well the communities where they live.
The lack of planning for children in times of emergency and disaster needs attention not just by government but the rest of civil society. While politicians worry about how they going to manage the lockdown I will like to thank institutions like Afrika Tikkun who remembered that children will still need to eat and are providing food parcels to those who need support. The new decade should be about putting children at the center, developing interventions and strategies that put children first by ensuring that their rights are protected.
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