Athlone children learnt about child safety at this year’s Child Protection Week campaign held at the Athlone Community Centre.
Child protection week was marked in South Africa from Tuesday June 1 to Monday June 7.
Children from the Athlone community made posters, painted their hand-prints onto a sheet, and played some games on Monday June 7.
Athlone police spokeswoman, Sergeant Zita Norman, taught the the children about “stranger danger” and that “my body belongs to me”, reminding each child that they had a right to protect their own bodies and that they should never take money or sweets from strangers.
She also told the children never to accept bribes from anyone they knew even if it was a friend or family member.
“When someone calls you and offers you money and sweets and says come with me, you say no,” she said.
“You don’t go with them or take anything and you scream for help and tell an adult so that they can help you. No one is allowed to touch your body, your body is yours alone. If someone touches you or hurts you, tell someone you trust so that they can help you.”
Sergeant Norman told the children that standing on corners and using drugs was not something they should strive for and appealed to the young boys to never look up to the gangsters as role models but rather find positive men to look up to in their communities.
She explained to the children that their education was of utmost importance and would help them achieve great things in life.
“Being a gangster is not cool at all. One day when you have completed your schooling and you’ve got a job you can buy yourself a house and car and reach all your goals,” she said.
The City of Cape Town’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) social development co-ordinator, Chandre Isaacs said it was important to show children that police were their friends, not their enemies.
She said many of the children in the area looked up to the gangsters as role models as they lacked positive role models in their lives.
“’Many of them act out what they see in their homes and they think that being a gangster is so cool and the way to live. It is important to show them otherwise and also to make them see that police are not to be feared, they not the bad ones, and they are there to help,“ she said.
Ms Isaacs said she hoped that daycare centres and primary schools made use of Child Protection Week to teach children valuable lessons about their safety.
“Our kids need to be informed, we need to show them that is a different way of living and there are people out there to help them,” she said.
Athlone ward councillor, Rashid Adams, said that parents also needed to be held accountable for the life choices their children made. He said that many parents abused substances in front of their children or ran drug outlets from their homes.
“Children become accustomed to this way of living and drop out of school in no time to join the business of selling drugs.
“Parents must step up and raise their children in healthy environments. Various departments also need to come on board so that we can assist and invest into our children,” he said.