1 Jun 2016
Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the celebration of International Children’s Day, Atteridgeville, Pretoria
Premier of Gauteng Province, Mr David Makhura,
Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini,
MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza and all MECs present,
Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa and Councillors present,
Leadership of the Kingdom Life Child and Youth Care Centre,
Fellow South Africans,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are very happy to join you today, to celebrate an important day, International Children’s Day.
International Children’s Day is observed annually on the 1st of June around the world to honour children’s rights as per the proclamation of the 1925 World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland.
In South Africa, the day coincides with the Child Protection Week Campaign which this year is observed from 29 May until 05 June under the theme “Let Us All Protect Children to Move South Africa Forward”.
Today is also the beginning of Youth Month, which is very significant this year as it is the 40th anniversary of the 16th June 1976 student uprisings.
Siyajabula ukuba nani namhlanje, sizogubha usuku olubalulekile lwezingane olugujwa umhlaba wonke jikelele. Ngalolusuku sibeka izingane phambili, sikhumbule konke esikwenzayo ukuze impilo yezingane ibe ngcono ezweni lakithi.
Lolu usuku esiqhakambisa ngalo konke okwenziwayo ukuthuthukisa imfundo, ukuphepha kwezingane, kanye nenhlalakahle yazo ukuze zikhule kahle.
This is a very important day in our national calendar as it affords us the opportunity to reflect on the progress we are making to advance the rights and interests of children.
We are celebrating today because we have made tremendous progress since the advent of democracy to promote the rights and wellbeing of our children.
We are aware that there is still a lot more that we need to do to protect children and ensure a brighter future for them, but we have certainly achieved a lot in the past 22 years.
Government took a decision that poverty must not prevent children from living or achieving a better life.
To date, eleven million children receive the child support grant. We are very happy that there are young people who are studying to become doctors and other key professions who were recipients of the child support grant.
We also have qualified professionals who are grateful to the child support grant for giving them a good start in life.
This means we are achieving our goal of ensuring that poverty does not prevent children from obtaining education. To achieve this goal further, nine million children who come from poor households attend school free of charge as part of government’s no-fee schools policy for the poor.
In addition, nine million children receive free meals at school to improve their participation and performance in class.
We also prepare children to do well at school from an early age. In this regard, Government approved the Early Childhood Development policy in December last year.
All children between 0 and 4 years of age must attend ECD centres to receive quality education which is suitable for their mental and physical development. We encourage parents to send children to ECD centres. Government subsidises children from poor households so that they can also benefit from early childhood development programmes.
The number of children that are subsidised by government at Early Childhood Development centres currently is more than nine hundred and fifty thousand.
Indeed, South Africa is a better place to live in for children, especially those from poor households.
The democratic government is also doing well with regards to cushioning and supporting children in distress. Many children are orphaned at an early age or are taken away from their parents due to abuse and other social problems. Government provides for such children through the foster care programme.
There are more than four hundred and seventy thousand (470 000) foster children receiving foster care child grants from government in the country. They are cared for by more than three hundred and thirty thousand (330 000) foster parents.
We also have the phenomenon of households that are headed by children or young people in our country. Children are compelled to head households following the demise of their parents.
The Department of Social Development is in the process of compiling a Child and Youth Headed Household Register in all Provinces so that assistance to these children and youth can be formalized.
To date, three thousand two hundred and fourteen (3 214) Child Headed Households have been identified.
In addition, government has identified six thousand five hundred and twenty two (6 522) Youth Headed Households in the country. We urge neighbours to provide support to such households, working with social workers and government structures
Government has also moved to ensure healthier lives for our children.
The policy turnaround on HIV and AIDS in 2009 has saved the lives of thousands of children, due to the supply of treatment to pregnant mothers, and also to all living with HIV, free of charge.
I mentioned earlier that eleven (11) million children receive the child support grant. They are part of close to seventeen (17) million South Africans who are beneficiaries of social grants.
The grants remain one of government’s most effective poverty alleviation mechanisms. They include the Child Support Grant, Disability Grant, Care Dependency Grant and Older Persons Grant.
Many of the recipients of the social grants want to earn a living or to augment their income.
In this regard, the Department of Social Development and its agencies, the South African Social Security Agency and the National Development Agency have launched a programme which enables unemployed women to earn an income through cooperatives which produce food and school uniforms.
During the last financial year, government spent more than R250 million to buying school uniforms and agricultural food products directly from cooperatives.
This initiative is part of Social Relief of Distress Programme which puts money directly into the hands of poor black people who were excluded from the mainstream economy before the dawn of democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Government cares for children wherever they are, including children who are born in prisons or correctional centres locally and abroad. The Children’s Act of 2005 calls for the repatriation of distressed children from foreign countries. This is important because a child of a female prisoner must not be condemned with the mother. The child must be given a chance to lead a better life outside prison.
Between the period of 2008 and 2016, government managed to repatriate 18 South African children, who were born in prisons or correctional centres in foreign countries where their mothers are being held for drug trafficking and related offences.
Bakwethu mangigcizelele ukuthi impilo ingcono kakhulu manje ezinganeni seziphila eNingizimu Africa engcono kunakuqala. Uhulumeni uyazithanda izingane uzinika izibonelelo, zifunda mahhala ezikoleni zikahulumeni, zingena mahhala ezibhedlela kanti futhi nokudla kutholakala mahhala ezikoleni. Uyazama impela lohulumeni ukwenza impilo ibengcono.
We say life is much better for children in a free and democratic South Africa.
At the same time, while thousands of households provide positive and loving care and support for children, some children sadly still fall victims to abuse.
Government is working hard to address the scourge of child abuse, neglect and exploitation of women and children.
Cabinet established the Inter-Ministerial Committee which is led by the Department of Social Development, to Combat Violence against Women and Children.
Amongst its interventions, government, through the Department of Social Development, established a 24 Hour Gender Based Violence Command Centre which provides counselling and support services to survivors of abuse and violence.
More importantly, violence against women and children is a priority crime in South Africa.
The South African Police Service is under standing orders to act swiftly against those who abuse women and children. All our law enforcement agencies are also responding well and the conviction rates for perpetrators of crimes against women and children are encouraging.
Abantwana abaningi basaphila kanzima ezweni lethu bayahlukunyezwa. Lenkinga siyayibona nakwabesifazane. Masibambisane ke silwe nokuhlukunyezwa kwabantwana nomama. Amaphoyisa, abashushisi nezinkantolo basebenza kanzima, besiza ukulwa nale nkinga. Sicela umphakathi ungathuli, kufanele ubike uma ubona noma uzwa ngokuhlukunyezwa kwezingane.
To further protect children and prevent further abuse by molesters, government established the National Child Protection Register in terms of Chapter 7 of the Children’s Act of 2005.
Before employing persons who are to work with children, employers and individuals are urged to check the Register so that they do not endanger children by employing people who have been convicted for crimes against children.
There are four hundred and forty one (441) persons who have been found to be unsuitable to work with children in the past financial year who are in this register. Let us protect children from further abuse.
Life is indeed better for children in a free and democratic South Africa, dear compatriots.
But we know that some challenges still remain which government is attending to.
Our ultimate goal is for every child to live in a decent home, with all the basic necessities such as water, sanitation, good roads, clinics, schools and recreational facilities. They must live in safe, secure and loving homes free from abuse of any kind.
We also want our children to be protected from drugs and substance abuse. Those who are already addicted to drugs must be assisted to stop the habit.
In this regard, Government is building drug rehabilitation centres in all provinces, given the magnitude of the problem.
Communities must support law enforcement agencies to enable us to defeat this scourge. Drug peddlers and drug lords must be reported to the authorities so that they can be locked away to protect our children.
We urge you as well as the community to spare a thought for children living on farms during Child Protection Week 2016. We have to ensure that they access education and stand a chance to become leaders of the future.
The Department of Social Development will use Child Protection Week to highlight the rights of children living on farms.