Child Protection Week is celebrated in South Africa every year from May 28 to June 4. During this time various organisations and companies rally to create awareness and encourage children to speak up about abuse.
This year, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Safe Schools, Social Development, Women for Change, and the City of Cape Town together with the Child Protection Collaborative will be hosting an awareness day on Tuesday May 29 at the Athlone civic centre.
The day will start with a march from Kewtown Primary School to the civic centre where 15 pupils from each primary and high school in the area will be present.
The pupils will present song items and poetry in light of Child Protection Week.
Clint Jacobs, the WCED co-ordinator for the child protection programme, said last year about 80 children died in the Western Cape and this year the number of child deaths stands at 25 already.
Mr Jacobs said that child protection affects everyone and is the responsibility of all citizens.
“We want the community to know that we do play an active role in protecting our children. One of the keynote speakers on the day will be a matriculant from Spes Bona High School. We are doing this to create awareness and tell children that we are here for them. They must speak out about abuse,” he said.
Coordinator of the Child Protection Collaborative, Tony Lawrence, said children are living in very traumatic conditions. He said parents need to step up and take responsibility for their children.
“A simple thing such as the taxi that commutes your child to and from school can become a very dangerous situation for the child. We need to understand the full dynamic of the problem in all platforms from the house to the playground to the classroom,” he said.
He said one of the reasons that children don’t speak out about abuse is because of the fear of the violence they will be exposed to afterwards.
“All children are at risk. Bullying is a huge problem in all forms, especially cyber bullying. We are failing to realise that trauma has a lifelong impact on a child. Sometimes it takes a longer time for them to display any symptoms,” he said.
Mr Jacobs said that people often ask “what is wrong with the child?” but they should ask “what has happened to the child?”.
“We need to lay foundations in our homes at an early age by creating a safe environment. I think children’s safety has become the number one child’s rights issue. If we keep on saying the same message over and over it is bound to have an impact on child. We need to continue to say the same thing over and over not just in Child Protection Week,” he said.
“We all to start portraying what it means to provide a level safety for children. It will lead to the effect that we are looking for. We can’t turn a blind eye anymore, we need to take action,” he said.