10 October 2014
On 9 October, the annual Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament convened at Parliament’s Old Assembly Chamber in Cape Town, South Africa, under the theme: 20 Years of Democracy: Moving Madiba’s Legacy Forward.
The contingent, 108 children aged 11 to 17, pulled no punches with Thomas Austin (17), a Western Cape representative, coming out swinging on violence against women and children.
He said there was a need to bolster laws and regulations that dealt with protecting vulnerable children from being violated, so as to improve prosecution rates.
“We expect government and the community to join hands with children and women and stand together to help us push for the appointment of an ombudsperson for children who will serve as a voice for children.
His fellow child parliamentarians agreed enthusiastically, chanting “OC’. “We don’t want our leaders to be violated and broken down before they fulfil their purpose as future leaders,’ said Thomas.
Ntombizodwa Sithole (16) said children should value the importance of education as it “lays the foundation for lifetime success’.
She called on government to improve access to education by building more schools in rural areas to ensure that children walk no more than five kilometres to school, as “Education to children in rural areas will lead to reducing poverty and inequality. It is a stepping stone . that will lead to economic growth.’
She also tackled the matric pass rate head on, saying, “We also feel that the current pass rate of 30% is not enough, and we recommend that the pass rate should be raised back to 50%.’
Omolemo Matlosa also called for access to education to be improved, for mechanisms to monitor teachers’ training, and for protection for children from predatory teachers.
“No decision should be taken about children without consulting children because it is about our future,’ he added.
Further calls were made for children with disabilities to be treated with respect and as valuable members of society.
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament
The Children’s Parliament is in line with the country’s Children’s Act (No.38 of 2005), “creates a platform for children’s participation in democracy and provides them an opportunity to influence policies . and strategies intended to realise their rights’.
Bathabile Dlamini, minister at the Department of Social Development, said parliament would take the children’s concerns further.
Source: SAnews.gov and SAinfo reporter