ATC140324: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities’ engagement with children in constituencies, dated 12 March 2014.
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:
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.
delegation consisted of the following members of the Committee:
African National Congress
Ms H Lamoela
Ms E More
following constituencies were visited:
day care centre for children infected
and/or affected by HIV/AIDS;
Norahs drop in centre, Norahs
the childrens 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
, 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.
Abuse and neglect, Teenage pregnancy
Drug abuse &
Child Support Grants
Children with disabilities
Outcome of Discussions
discussions the following key issues emerged as identified by the children:
Children had varied opinions regarding the cost of
drugs ranging from as little as R5-10 to R100s. 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
To support the habit, users of this drug rob
people, break into houses. Merchants pay the police and then they wont get
arrested. Children are selling
and Cat (a
sniffing drug) at schools for R50 or R60 a bag.
The most common drug was dagga.
is not very common.
are mixed with
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
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.
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.
drug abuse and crime is evident in communities. Use drugs to get courage to
pursue criminal activity.
within communities it causes tension in the community.
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.
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.
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.
Over-crowding persists in child care centres and
foster care settings due to the demand of children in need of care and
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. Cant climb taxi to get to school.
Transport = barrier to access schooling.
The by-law prohibits children from entering such establishments
and purchasing alcohol. However, this is not abided to. Tavern/
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 thats no longer happening.
Unemployed youth have nothing to do and therefore
turn to drugs and
. If there were options
they would not turn to crime.
The children made the
Children need a
environment to learn in therefore housing must be improved and safety at
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/childrens
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
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
Government must support the creation of children
forming their own support groups in communities.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Forming partnerships with children, teachers,
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
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 Committees 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.
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
and departmental cooperation with all relevant stakeholders.
Having considered the report the Committee recommended the following:
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
Parents have a crucial role to play within child
rearing. More awareness
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.
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
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
Health promotion activities focused on teenage
pregnancy, sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse is essential for
Department of Justice and Constitutional
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
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
, 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
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
transport fee for persons with disabilities.
to be considered
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