SA 4th on Child-friend ly In­dex

But im­prove­ments needed in im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies in mal­nu­tri­tion, stunt­ing and measles vac­ci­na­tion

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - ED­WIN NAIDU

SOUTH Africa was placed fourth in a sur­vey of the “most child-friendly” coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the Child-Friend­li­ness In­dex by the African Child Pol­icy Fo­rum, but given its re­sources the coun­try should have been first, ac­cord­ing to Ye­hualashet Meko­nen, the lead au­thor of the study.

“South Africa is do­ing well com­pared to other African na­tions, only topped by Mau­ri­tius, Al­ge­ria and Tu­nisia, but could have been first,” Meko­nen told The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the other most child-friendly gov­ern­ments on the con­ti­nent are Cabo Verde, Egypt, Namibia, the Sey­chelles, Swazi­land, Mo­rocco and Le­sotho.

The “least child-friendly” gov­ern­ments, at the bot­tom of the 2018 ta­ble, are South Su­dan, the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Chad, Cameroon, Zam­bia, Liberia, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Guinea and Eritrea.

The three pil­lars on which the in­dex hinges are pro­tec­tion, pro­vi­sion and par­tic­i­pa­tion.

South Africa scored high through­out and de­spite its fourth-place rank­ing, was de­scribed as the “most child­friendly” coun­try.

Meko­nen said that ac­cord­ing to the in­dex, South Africa had bet­ter ac­cess to pre-pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion than many African coun­tries.

But im­prove­ments were needed in sev­eral ar­eas. For ex­am­ple, South Africa has adopted a num­ber of child-re­lated laws and poli­cies, which are not yet in ef­fect.

These in­clude the pro­hi­bi­tion of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, im­prov­ing the min­i­mum age of crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity from the cur­rent 10 years to the rec­om­mended 12 years, and, im­ple­men­ta­tion of free pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion.

Fur­ther­more, one in ev­ery four chil­dren un­der age 5 is chron­i­cally mal­nour­ished or stunted, while one in ev­ery five has not been vac­ci­nated against measles in South Africa.

Meko­nen said a press­ing con­cern not just for South Africa but the con­ti­nent was the sur­prise find­ing that 30 years af­ter adop­tion of the UN Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child, The African Char­ter on the Rights and Wel­fare of the Child, no ac­tion taken by gov­ern­ments had changed the nar­ra­tive of a starv­ing con­ti­nent. A third of chil­dren in Africa are mal­nour­ished.

But im­prove­ments are ex­pected once leg­isla­tive re­forms are passed for, among oth­ers, the Main­te­nance Act, and sev­eral bills be­fore Par­lia­ment, in­clud­ing the amend­ments to the South African Schools Act, draft reg­u­la­tions re­lat­ing to the Sex­ual Of­fences Courts, the draft Child Care and Pro­tec­tion Pol­icy, and draft Chil­dren’s Amend­ment Bill.

Yet ac­cord­ing to Meko­nen, one of the shock find­ings con­ti­nen­twide in the in­dex re­lated to chil­dren go­ing to school but not learn­ing to read or count.

“That is one of the ma­jor con­cerns we felt must be ur­gently ad­dressed and put higher on the agenda,” he said.

Civil so­ci­ety lobby group Equal Ed­u­ca­tion said de­spite mak­ing bold state­ments about the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tito Mboweni’s 2018 medium-term bud­get pol­icy state­ment of­fered scant respite to the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion bud­get.

Al­lo­ca­tions to in­fra­struc­ture grants con­tin­ued to show a drop over the medium term, and the to­tal ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion bud­get was grow­ing at a slow rate, when in­fla­tion was con­sid­ered.

Equal Ed­u­ca­tion said that against a back­ground of so­cial fund­ing cuts, it was dis­ap­point­ing to see that fund­ing that could have been al­lo­cated to ed­u­ca­tion and other so­cial sec­tors was be­ing spent to clean up gov­er­nance fail­ures at state-owned en­ter­prises (SOEs).

“In­stead of ad­e­quately ad­dress­ing the haem­or­rhag­ing of re­sources by SOEs, ap­prox­i­mately R8 bil­lion has been al­lo­cated to­wards bailouts for SOEs such as SAA and South African Ex­press.

“This same amount could have been used to fill the gap left by the R7 bil­lion re­duc­tion to the ed­u­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture grants.”

The UN Com­mit­tee on Eco­nomic, So­cial and Cul­tural Rights last month called on the gov­ern­ment to speed up ef­forts to, among oth­ers things, im­prove school in­fra­struc­ture, re­duce school drop-out rates, pre­vent dis­crim­i­na­tion re­lated to school fees, im­prove ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for learn­ers with dis­abil­i­ties, and hold pri­vate play­ers in ed­u­ca­tion to ac­count.

Last Tues­day at a World Chil­dren’s Day event hosted by the UN Chil­dren’s Fund in Jo­han­nes­burg, the re­lease of the South African Child Gauge® by the Chil­dren’s In­sti­tute at UCT, which mon­i­tors progress to­wards re­al­is­ing chil­dren’s rights, sketched a bleak sce­nario for chil­dren in the coun­try, say­ing much more had to be done.

NIC BOTHMA Epa

SOUTH Africa ranked fourth among African coun­tries for over­all child well-be­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Child-friend­li­ness In­dex. A child-friendly gov­ern­ment is de­fined as one which is mak­ing the max­i­mum ef­fort to meet its obli­ga­tions to re­spect, pro­tect and ful­fil chil­dren’s rights and en­sure their well-be­ing. |

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