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