SA kids robbed of child­hood

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - BENJAMIN DIN @ben­ja­mindin

SOUTH Africa ranks in the mid­dle in­dex of coun­tries where child­hood is most threat­ened, ac­cord­ing to Save the Chil­dren’s lat­est re­port, “Stolen Child­hoods”.

“Of the 172 coun­tries looked at, South Africa comes out 103rd, which is not good enough for a coun­try like South Africa,” said Save the Chil­dren In­ter­na­tional chief ex­ec­u­tive Helle Thorn­ing-Sch­midt. “We want to put a fo­cus on why.”

The for­mer Dan­ish prime min­is­ter was speak­ing at an early child­hood devel­op­ment cen­tre in Stjwetla, Alexan­dra yes­ter­day. Her visit co­in­cided with In­ter­na­tional Chil­dren’s Day as well as Child Pro­tec­tion Week.

The re­port iden­ti­fied seven child­hood en­ders: death, school dropout, hin­dered growth, preg­nancy, vic­tim of ex­treme vi­o­lence, labour and mar­riage.

At least 700 mil­lion chil­dren have had their child­hood abruptly ended, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

South Africa has the high­est child-homi­cide rate out­side Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, ac­cord­ing to a South African sup­ple­ment of the re­port.

For Save the Chil­dren South Africa (SCSA), the re­port helped sharpen the fo­cus of its pro­grammes on the first five fac­tors, said chief ex­ec­u­tive Gugulethu Nde­bele.

“As a South African, I think we’ve gone numb on the is­sues of chil­dren. We think that a hash­tag there and a slo­gan here is go­ing to sort out what is fun­da­men­tally wrong with chil­dren,” Nde­bele said.

Nor­way, Slove­nia and Fin­land topped the list, which ranked the best coun­tries to have a safe child­hood.

Al­though eight African coun­tries fared bet­ter than South Africa, the bot­tom 19 coun­tries were African, with Niger last.

Thorn­ing-Sch­midt en­gaged with pupils at the cen­tre, join­ing them in play­ing with build­ing blocks, hav­ing a tea party and dol­ing out high-fives.

The cen­tre, where Thorn­ingSch­midt re­leased the re­port, opened in 1989 with­out ba­sic ser­vices but to­day has elec­tric­ity and run­ning wa­ter.

Donors have funded a kitchen, and flush­ing toi­lets and bath­room sinks are be­ing in­stalled.

The pupils, aged 3 to 6, are a part of SCSA’s preschool pro­gramme, which fo­cuses on a holis­tic three-pronged ap­proach: nu­tri­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and child pro­tec­tion.

For a monthly fee of about R100, Nde­bele said, the cen­tre’s 50 chil­dren re­ceive break­fast, lunch and an af­ter­noon snack. They have a safe space to play, solve puz­zles, and learn to read and write. They’re also taken for im­mu­ni­sa­tions.

“The most im­por­tant thing is they learn to be re­spon­si­ble for them­selves and they learn to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers,” said prin­ci­pal of the cen­tre Ja­co­beth Moikanyane.

The SCSA runs an­other cen­tre in Mpumalanga.


CHILD’S PLAY: Save the Chil­dren In­ter­na­tional chief ex­ec­u­tive Helle Thorn­ing-Sch­midt meets kids at the early child­hood devel­op­ment cen­tre in Stjwetla, Alexan­dra.

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