ATC140324: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities’ engagement with children in constituencies, dated 12 March 2014.

NCOP Women, Children and People with Disabilities

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities’ engagement with children in constituencies, dated 12 March 2014.

The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities having engaged with children in constituencies from 2 to 5 December 2013, reports as follows:

1. Introduction

The focus group provided an opportunity to educate and raise awareness with children about Parliament and Government. Moreover, it also served as an opportunity raise profile of role of politicians and current affairs. Therefore it also provided a platform for taking Parliament to the people.

2. Delegation

The delegation consisted of the following members of the Committee:

African National Congress

· Mr D Kekana

· Ms P Petersen- Maduna

· Ms MD Nxumalo

· Ms DM Ramodibe

· Ms MF Tlake

· Ms GK Tseke

Democratic Alliance

· Ms H Lamoela

· Ms E More

The following constituencies were visited:

· Gauteng – Lenasia , Soweto, Phiri – day care centre for children infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS; Benoni , Putfontein – Norah’s drop in centre, Norah’s educare centre, S’tembela after care, Bophelong - Vanderbijlpark

· Mpuamalanga – Moretele Constituency

· Free State – Theunissen

· Eastern Cape – Helenvale , Port Elizabeth

Furthermore, in Serepeti the children’s ambassador for Mpumalanga was able to talk to that group about what he does, how he became an ambassador and his role. In so doing, the focus group discussion also became a networking opportunity. In Theunissen , a total of 135 children (youngest age 10 years up to 18 years, a few 19 year olds) had participated prior to this focus group discussion. In addition, the children had requested an opportunity to engage with elders to be taught about democracy, lobbying and public speaking. Moreover, the older children have also taken it upon themselves to go back to their communities during the school holidays to speak to the younger children. In Port Elizabeth, even though the local councilor had requested community based organisations to bring no more than 20 children to the multi-purpose centre, approximately 100 children arrived on the day.

The average age of children that attended these focus group discussions ranged from age 5 years to 17 years. Overall approximately 8-10 children participated in the focus group discussions. Members also had the opportunity to engage with non-governmental organisations working with children, educators and councillors in the respective constituencies.

The following topics served as a basis for facilitating discussions. However, children were not limited or restricted to only talk to those issues.

· Violence

· Abuse and neglect, Teenage pregnancy

· Drug abuse & Gangsterism

· Child Support Grants

· Children with disabilities

3. Outcome of Discussions

During the discussions the following key issues emerged as identified by the children:

Drug abuse

· Children had varied opinions regarding the cost of drugs ranging from as little as R5-10 to R100’s. Nonetheless, in order to feed the addiction often children would resort to stealing money from their family to stealing household items to sell in order to buy drugs. Children lie about needing money for school so they use that to buy drugs. Parents are so keen to have the children succeed at school that they will give anything.

· Sometimes children use household products e.g. glue. They start from there and crave for something stronger eventually.

· Another popular drug is a mixture of ARVs and heroine.

· To support the habit, users of this drug rob people, break into houses. Merchants pay the police and then they won’t get arrested. Children are selling tik and Cat (a sniffing drug) at schools for R50 or R60 a bag.

· The most common drug was dagga. Nyaope is not very common. Antiretrovirals are mixed with ratex even steel-wool and other common drugs to increase the potency. Children also explained how plasma television screens are damaged in order to retrieve the powder inside which is then mixed with dagga and smoked. Because dagga can be used as indigenous medicine, children buy from traditional healers merely indicating that it is being bought for healing purposes.

· Incidents were also relayed about girls prostituting themselves for money to buy drugs.

· Merchants use children to sell drugs in and around schools.

· The lack of in-patient drug rehabilitation centres and out-patient assistance is problematic as parents cannot always afford to pay for private therapy or have transport money in order to access a service far away. Most of these centres only cater for adults and not children.

· Access to drugs at school is easily available. Dagga is sold in schools. Even though random searchers are done, the children who sell drugs normally know where to hide it. With that, certain students have certain relationships with teachers, so they get teachers to hide drugs and in turn teachers are paid. Hence, many teachers contribute to the drug problem within schools by being bribed or colluding with children that sell drugs.

· Children reiterated that police corruption exacerbates the drug problems in communities as many police officers collude with drug dealers. Police are also on drugs and then obtain drugs from drug merchants.

· The root causes of drug usage need to be addressed - like unstable family situations and poverty. Domestic violence families are another root cause for drug usage that is not addressed well. Challenges faced by single parents to deal with children abusing drugs.


· Gangsterism is a huge problem. Children are recruited into gangs due to peer pressure which often lead to school drop-out.

· Children are fearful of being bullied by gangsters.

· Interrelation between gangsterism , drug abuse and crime is evident in communities. Use drugs to get courage to pursue criminal activity.

· Gangsterism brings division within communities it causes tension in the community.

Sexual abuse

· Children are afraid to speak up as they are intimidated. Children cannot perform at school because of what is happening at home, fear of returning home.

· Children sexually abusing children are not uncommon.

· The gendered discourse around girls and their appearance and what girls wear was discussed at length. Girls and boys had varied opinions on the matter but what emerged strongly was the power dynamics between sexes and the low self esteem of teenagers.

· It was indicated that children attending parties and taverns who then abuse alcohol were more likely to be sexually assaulted because of impaired reasoning.

· Sexual abuse can lead to depression even suicide. Perpetrators often threaten the victims with physical harm or threaten to kill if abuse is disclosed. As a result, children run away and go missing often because of being sexually abused and fearful of the perpetrator or being ridiculed because of the abuse.

· Social networking serves as platform for images of sexual abuse to be circulated. The lack of monitoring in this regard is a problem as parents and caregivers are often unaware of what children post as pictures/videos via chat platforms.

· Some parents in the context of poverty allow children to be abused sexually e.g. sent to the mines as young as age 8 or 9 years, mine workers sexually abuse children in exchange for money.

· No confidentiality with teachers when children disclose. Teachers discuss issues with staff so everyone knows.

· There is a lack of trust in the criminal justice system as children noted that perpetrators often return to the community and intimidate the victim. Children, teachers and NGOs identified problems with bail, missing dockets for cases and the on-going abuse by perpetrators once released back into the community.

Teenage pregnancy

· Within over-crowded living conditions, children are exposed to adult sexual activity which is then normalised.

· As stated previously, within a context of poverty girls have sex with older men in exchange for money.

· The peer pressure to become sexually active amongst children is a contributing factor for teenage pregnancy.

· Many children do not believe that they can contract a sexually transmitted disease or that a girl can become impregnated after having sex for the first time. This despite the sex education received at schools and health awareness programmes at health centres, in the media and in communities offered by NGOs.

· Expired condoms at health centres in Mpumalanga were also noted as a major concern. This may have also contributed to unsafe sex for children at the time.

· Children were in agreement that having sex at a young age was not advisable but that Government cannot be blamed for making contraception available. There are programmes such as Love life and information centres. Government is providing programmes but the choice is yours (children).

· The myths about having sex as a child should be debunked e.g. lack of sex causes acne.

· Parents are often reluctant to place girls on contraceptives because of the negative side effects this despite.

· No support for young girls who are raped and become pregnant. Those girls are often discriminated against within the community. Because of stigma and lack of support, these teen mothers drop out of school.

Extra-mural activities

· Government has provided recreational facilities however many communities still lacked recreational facilities. Unfortunately, children noted that these facilities were not being taken care of and instead vandalised. Children indicated that often the gangsters convert these facilities into places for drug abuse and sexual abuse.

· There is an overall lack of supervision at parks.

· At school, the most common sport is soccer, netball, athletics – but this is limiting as not all children may be interested in these types of sports. The number of children is limited to a particular sporting code so not all children will have an opportunity to participate. Sport at school is optional not compulsory. Children are not encouraged to play sport when teacher has one team full they are not concerned about the rest of the children. Challenge with access to sport equipment.

· Gender discrimination e.g. girls do not play soccer. Sports for a particular gender therefore boys encouraged to play volleyball and soccer.

Alternative care

· Over-crowding persists in child care centres and foster care settings due to the demand of children in need of care and protection.

· Funding constraints faced by child care centres.

· Foster care grants do not sufficiently cater for school fees as well.

· Children placed in foster care often do not receive visits from family or friends at the foster care.

· Social workers do not follow-up on placement of children and do not monitor their wellbeing at the cluster foster care scheme.


· Orphans being discriminated against by the community being discouraged from progressing in life.

Children with disabilities

· The first challenge that we have is that we are living far from the school and no transport. Can’t climb taxi to get to school. Transport = barrier to access schooling.

Taverns/ Shebeens

· The by-law prohibits children from entering such establishments and purchasing alcohol. However, this is not abided to. Tavern/ shebeen owners have been known to bribe police therefore active policing over these establishments is weak.

· Parents send children to the bottle store to buy alcohol and in the process may land up being raped but children are then fearful of telling parents.

Abuse of Child Support Grant

· Caregivers/parents abusing grants (e.g. gambling) and by implication children as intended beneficiaries do not benefit.

· Children had conflicting views as to whether girls become pregnant in order to access a child support grant as there were many girls that were pregnant because of rape and as a result require financial assistance. Strong views were expressed however that the grant is intended for the child but girls use money for themselves and not the child.


· Does the community have a role to play? Older community members are not leading by being good examples as they are using drugs and hence are bad role models. Families are dysfunctional and not playing the role they are supposed to. The church was previously active in schools e.g. through bible study but that’s no longer happening.

· Unemployed youth have nothing to do and therefore turn to drugs and gangsterism . If there were options they would not turn to crime.

4. Children’s Recommendations

The children made the following recommendations:


· Children need a conducive environment to learn in therefore housing must be improved and safety at schools. Electricity is needed and an improvement in the general living conditions. The children stated that the policy makers and government must come and see their housing and make decisions to improve it based on the visit.

· Government needs to support children driven campaigns: Awareness campaigns with children who have achieved success can be a role model to other children for positive change, give advice and support other children, e.g. successful orphans to encourage other orphans, youth/children’s indaba.

· Family imbizos and discussions with elders could assist in ensuring that parents do not abuse their children, but rather take care of them. At the same time, the justice system must be efficient when dealing with parents who abuse their children, especially the police.

· Further promotion of feeding schemes for everyone and not just a certain type of family – food security in communities must be prioritised.


· Government needs to provide more counsellors for children that are abused.

· Urgent need for in-patient drug rehabilitation facilities particularly in the Eastern Cape. Out-patient state services must be increased. More education programmes and free and efficient transport to rehab centres is needed, as transport is a barrier to attending an out-patient programme.

· Government must support the creation of children forming their own support groups in communities.

Extra-mural activities

· Government should provide more secure recreational facilities.

· Sports and recreational activities such as drama, ballroom dancing etc. should be reintroduced into communities.

· Improve security at night at parks.

Teenage pregnancy

· Institutions are required for teen parents where support and advice can be obtained.

· Children require self discipline and building of strong self esteem to withstand peer pressure to abstain from sex. Children should be supported in this regard.

Role of parents

· Fostering better relationships between parent and child must be encouraged.

· “Parents should be the main and best role models of children.” Parental involvement is therefore highly important.

· Parents should be educated on how to talk to children regarding sex education.

· Parents must monitor what children are exposed to on social network platforms.

Monitoring grants

· Greater monitoring over grants is required to ensure that children as the intended beneficiaries do actually benefit.

· Government should re-examine the issuing of grants to children and consider how children can obtain the necessary basic necessities such as food and clothes they require. This could be in the form of a voucher not cash.

· Government should take action and monitor if a child is being taken care of properly in seeing if the grant is being used properly.

· Government should consider volunteers (like a curator) that will protect persons and children with disabilities in the house that rely on a grant.

· Exemption from school fees would help with the efficient use of the foster grant.

Foster care

· There should be a fine balance between getting more foster care systems and promoting families in South Africa. We should work towards minimizing institutions and educate parents to be responsible.

Dealing with violence

· Government must make a plan to ensure that there is an end to family violence cases and justice stakeholders should be resourced to solve these cases if there are any.

· The justice system should respond better to dealing with perpetrators.

· An advisor on violence should meet with the President and leadership and this advisor must be in touch with what happens on the ground. This collective should visit the communities in which these atrocities occur.

Role of schools

· Schools should sensitise children about the diversity and differences of all children.

Parental involvement and support

· Parenting programmes are needed in communities to help support and educate parents who lack the requisite skills.

· Parents must teach learners e.g. not sending children to bottle store to buy beer. Workshops are needed with parents to educate them.

· Social networks: Monitoring required

· Parents should practice positive forms of discipline in children.

· The role of men, boys and fathers require urgent attention within programmes.

Visible policing

· Police should be policing and held accountable if police officers transgress.

· Tightening laws around sale of alcohol to minors and not allowing children into taverns and shebeens .

· Improve security at night at parks.

The NGOs and educators concurred with many of the recommendations made by the children and also reiterated the importance of working in partnership by:

· Forming partnerships with children, teachers, social workers – doing awareness campaigns working with ambassador. Dialogues with children.

· Follow up on cases with social worker

· The 365 day action plan should be a continuous programme.

· Community does have a good role play. Church will assist a lot in dealing with drugs and prostitution.

5. Committee Observations

· The Committee acknowledged that all of the aforementioned mentioned issues were important.

· The Committee concurred with all of the recommendations made by the children within the various constituencies.

· The Committee acknowledged that the engagement opportunities with the children and NGOs provided invaluable insights into the lived realities of children in the country.

· The Committee indicated that more public participation initiatives of this nature should have been held. However, given the Committee’s broad mandate, the transversal nature of issues being dealt with and the time constraints experienced the Committee was unable to factor more visits like this into its programme.

6. Conclusion

The Committee concluded its deliberations on the report reiterating the importance of engaging with women, children and people with disabilities within communities in order to understand their lived realities. Furthermore, the Committee emphasised the importance of intersectoral and departmental cooperation with all relevant stakeholders.

7. Committee Recommendations

Having considered the report the Committee recommended the following:

7.1 General

· Identify mechanisms for giving effect to what the children describe as “Starting a road to success” and seeing “Children as agents of change”.

· Confer with relevant Committees in the National Assembly, the National Council of Province and the Provincial Legislatures to follow-up on issues that were identified within the various constituencies.

· The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities should ensure that engagement with children in constituencies is part of the 5 th Parliament programme.

· Parents have a crucial role to play within child rearing. More awareness raising should be done to educate parents on how best to protect children from harm and abuse.

· Departments should request assistance of private donors to assist with issues related to issues such as rehabilitation centres and schools nutritional programmes.

· Government should focus more on promoting extra-mural activities for children particularly in rural areas.

· Religious institutions are crucial role players that should become more active to prevent and promote the protection of children from abuse and neglect.

7.2 Members in Constituencies

· Each Member within their respective constituencies to follow-up on the issues identified by the children.

7.3 The Committee recommends the following to the respective Ministers:

Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs

· Multi-purpose centers should serve the community including the non-governmental organisations wishing to render services. As such, special provisions should be made to ensure that NGOs are able to access these centers and not be inhibited by rental fees.

Department of Basic Education

· Teachers should be held to account for perpetuating drug abuse within schools, sexual abuse of learners and breaking confidentiality of learners that disclose abuse.

Department of Health

· There is an urgent need for health facilities (e.g. district, regional hospitals) to accommodate children with substance induced psychosis.

· Health promotion activities focused on teenage pregnancy, sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse is essential for children.

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

· Cases of sexual abuse must be prioritized within the criminal justice system.

· Mechanisms are required to ensure that victim of abuse are protected instances where perpetrators return to the communities where the victim lives.

Department of Police

· Police officials must be held accountable for perpetuating crime.

· Training of police must be reviewed with respect to dealing with gender based violence and sexual abuse.

· More visible policing is required at and around shebeens , taverns and parks particularly at night.

Department of Social Development

· SASSA should re-examine the monitoring of grants in order to determine if children are benefitting in instances where children are the intended beneficiaries.

· In-patient drug rehabilitation centers in the Easter Cape are urgently required. Overall, more facilities in and out-patient are required for children that abuse drugs.

Department of Transport

· Accessible, affordable and available transport must be prioritised for persons with disabilities, their caregivers when accompanying an adult or child with a disability and/or a mobility device such as a wheelchair.

· The Department should consider introducing a subsidised transport fee for persons with disabilities.

Report to be considered


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