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Challenges growing for children


Cape Times (South Africa). (Nov. 20, 2014): News: p11.

From World History In Context.

Document Type: Article
COPYRIGHT 2014 Independent Online

Full Text:

BYLINE: Bridget Clampett and Eric Atmore

As we celebrate Universal Children's Day today, the reality is that
South Africa's children face numerous challenges resulting from
widespread poverty and inequality. These challenges include
child-headed households; orphans and vulnerable children; the
inequality of the education system; inadequate housing;
widespread hunger; limited access to basic services; HIV/Aids;
and inadequate child health care. Two-thirds of South African
children live in poverty.
Since the demise of apartheid in 1994, legislation has been
passed and policies formulated to address these challenges faced
by children. The South African constitution of 1996 includes the
Bill of Rights, which sets out the rights of children - to education,
shelter, health and freedom from maltreatment, among others. A
number of laws pertaining to the rights of children have also
been passed.
These include the Children's Act (2005); the Children's
Amendment Bill (2006); the Prevention of Family Violence Act
(1993); the South African Schools Act (1996); the Child Justice
Act (2008); and the Domestic Violence Act (1998). Despite this,
it is clear that as a country, we are not effective in protecting and
advancing the rights of children. To address these challenges,
stakeholders in the children's sector are unanimous that an
ombudsperson for children is necessary, and that we urgently
need to explore the role, scope and powers of such an office.
According to the South African Child Gauge (2012), as of 2010

there were 18.5 million children, of whom 21 percent were

orphans, 24 percent were not living with a biological parent, and
0.5 percent were living in child-headed households. In terms of
income poverty, 60 percent of children were living below the
poverty line and of these children 35 percent were living in a
home where no adults received a salary.
Child health is another concern. The under-5 mortality rate was
56 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2009, and the infant mortality
rate was 40 deaths per 1 000 live births. Three percent of
children under the age of 15 were believed to be HIV-positive
and 17 percent were faced with hunger. In terms of access to
education in 2009, 97 percent of children were enrolled in
primary schools. However, this does not reflect the rate of more
than 50 percent drop-outs occurring before children reach Grade
12, nor does it indicate the quality of the education outcomes.
Access to housing is another significant issue in South Africa: 2
million children live in inadequate housing and 23 percent of
children live in overcrowded houses. Children in these
circumstances are vulnerable to many forms of abuse due to the
lack of a family safety net. One such form of abuse is coercion
into sexual activities to earn income for necessary living
The need to establish an office of the children's ombudsperson
has been voiced for a number of years. This is driven by the fact
that despite the legislation intended to protect children, the
situation is dire and necessitates an independent position, such
as an ombudsperson tasked with protecting children's rights and
Recent research suggests that there are five key roles which an
ombudsperson could play. The central role involves safeguarding
and promoting children's interests" through promoting their
rights and welfare. The second is reviewing and monitoring the
operation of complaints procedures, which includes examining
the operations and arrangements for resolving complaints in
order to establish whether or not they are effective in protecting
and promoting children's rights and welfare.
These operations may involve representing the views of children

or offering guidance about their rights. Investigating complaints

is the third role of an ombudsperson for children. This involves
examining the type of cases presented. The specific
circumstances under which an examination may be undertaken,
and the procedure that the ombudsperson should follow, should
be specified in legislation.
The fourth role is assisting children who are using complaints
procedures. The final role is reviewing the effect on children of
the exercise of functions by public bodies, which involves
evaluating the effect of any legislation on children, that is either
in effect or proposed.
An ombudsperson for children would require independence,
authority and power, and would be capable of fulfilling
responsibilities only if such independence was stipulated in our
In the South African context, the ombudsperson for children
should be a Chapter Nine institution, accountable to the National
Assembly. To be successful, the office should have the power to
fulfil its role, including the capacity to retrieve relevant
information for cases from specific persons when necessary, and
to enforce the examination of witnesses.
The movement to establish an ombudsperson for children in
South Africa is not new. During the drafting of the Children's Act,
the Law Reform Commission considered such a position.
However, in the end, it was not included as the "protections
afforded children in these drafts were considered adequate"
(Parliamentary Liaison Office, 2014). Due to the slow and limited
implementation of the current Children's Act, and the subsequent
absence of services for children in crisis, the desire to implement
an ombudsperson for children has returned to the agenda, led by
Molo Songololo and other organisations.
An additional challenge is that if insufficient resources were
allocated to this office, this would result in limited effectiveness,
thus the office of the ombudsperson for children should be
equipped with an adequate number of qualified staff who possess
a thorough knowledge of the children's rights environment.
For an office of the ombudsperson for children to be effective in a

South African context, there should be sufficient resources, staff

and mechanisms in place that ensure accessibility for all children
and their families.
The jurisdiction of an ombudsperson for children should include
all children residing in South Africa, regardless of their
nationality, and all children should be able to lodge complaints.
Accessibility should be through established provincial offices and
also through a toll-free line.
Although it is clear that there is an urgent need for an
ombudsman, a key challenge is to overcome the lack of political
l Clampett is a social worker who will graduate with her Honours
degree in social development later this year. Atmore is adjunct
associate professor in the department of social development at
UCT and director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development.
Bridget Clampett and Eric Atmore
Source Citation

(MLA 7th Edition)

"Challenges growing for children." Cape Times [South Africa] 20 Nov. 2014:
11. World History In Context. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
Document URL

Gale Document Number: GALE|A390756642