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Chil­dren’s Sec­tor Par­lia­ment

ll the young Mem­bers of the Pro­vin­cial Leg­is­la­ture (MPLs) were seated, the Speaker kept a strict eye on pro­ceed­ings as she man­aged ques­tions and re­sponses from the House, strong ar­gu­ments were of­fered, res­o­lu­tions adopted – and, on a few oc­ca­sions, the Speaker even had to call MPLs to or­der.

This was the scene at the 2015 Chil­dren’s Sec­tor Par­lia­ment at the Don Mate­man Hall in El­do­rado Park Ex­ten­sion 5 this week, where the Speaker of the Gaut­eng Pro­vin­cial Leg­is­la­ture (GPL), Honourable Ntombi Mekgwe, and Ed­u­ca­tion Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee chair­per­son Honourable Joe Mpisi, among oth­ers, gath­ered to lis­ten to the “flow­ers of the na­tion” de­bate cur­rent is­sues.

Themed Youth Cel­e­brat­ing 21 Years of a Demo­cratic Leg­is­la­ture, the sit­ting pro­vided chil­dren from more than 500 schools in Gaut­eng with a plat­form to de­lib­er­ate the re­al­i­ties that pre­vent the youth of Gaut­eng from en­joy­ing their con­sti­tu­tional rights as par­tic­i­pants in a democ­racy.

It was an op­por­tu­nity for the youth to in­ter­act with elected com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the leg­is­la­ture and ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cials – and gain a prac­ti­cal un­der­stand­ing of how is­sues are de­bated in the House and res­o­lu­tions ad­vanced.

Honourable Mekgwe said: “As part of our man­date to en­sure public par­tic­i­pa­tion in leg­isla­tive and demo­cratic pro­cesses, the leg­is­la­ture hosts sec­tor par­lia­ments for dif­fer­ent stake­holder group­ings that con­sti­tute the Gaut­eng so­ci­ety.

“The chil­dren’s par­lia­ment, for ex­am­ple, is held dur­ing youth month and al­lows our young­sters to talk for them­selves about is­sues that af­fect them, as well as rec­om­mend what they view as po­ten­tial ways to ad­dress those.”

Top­ics de­bated dur­ing the 2015 sit­ting of the chil­dren’s par­lia­ment in­cluded: ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion; safety in com­mu­ni­ties; the rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of chil­dren; the Child Pro­tec­tion Act; and chil­dren and sports.

Par­tic­i­pants in the chil­dren’s par­lia­ment shared the plat­form, high­light­ing some of their per­sonal chal­lenges and rais­ing sug­ges­tions on mat­ters such as the food meal pro­gramme and the long dis­tances they trav­elled on foot to get to school.

Honourable Mekgwe ac­knowl­edged these con­cerns and noted that these formed part of the is­sues that were cur­rently top of the agenda for the GPL’s ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial de­vel­op­ment port­fo­lio com­mit­tees’ over­sight work with the rel­e­vant Gaut­eng gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.

“The com­mit­tees are over­see­ing the Gaut­eng gov­ern­ment’s sup­port pro­gramme through­out the province, and we are deal­ing with these is­sues as a mat­ter of pri­or­ity. For ex­am­ple, in Gaut­eng, more than 60% of schools have been de­clared no-fee schools, more than 1 mil­lion chil­dren now have scholar trans­port and free uni­forms, and re­ceive a free meal at school,” she said.

Af­ter the end of a long sit­ting of the chil­dren’s par­lia­ment, the young mem­bers – and fu­ture lead­ers – adopted four res­o­lu­tions to be car­ried for­ward to the GPL for fur­ther de­bate in the House.

“We will take these mat­ters to the House for fur­ther de­bate, re­vise the res­o­lu­tions, if re­quired, al­lo­cate a task team to deal with the mat­ters raised and mon­i­tor its progress as per the GPL’s over­sight sys­tem and the res­o­lu­tions’ track­ing method, so that we are able to re­turn for the next ses­sion

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