SA 4th on Child-friend ly Index
But improvements needed in implementing policies in malnutrition, stunting and measles vaccination
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.
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. |