Events

Eastern Cape empowers children during Child Protection Week

Learners from five (5) senior primary schools in the Eastern Cape were all smiles when the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development officials paid them a visit in support of the Child Protection Week recently.

The Child Protection Week, which took place from 27 May – 03 June 2013, is an annual event to raise awareness on the rights of children as articulated in the Constitution. The campaign began in 1997 with the aim of mobilising all sectors of society to protect and care for children.

The outreach team from the Public Education and Communication (PEC) visited five (5) primary schools identified by the Eastern Cape Regional Office around the King William’s Town and Zwelitsha areas. Information on the rights and responsibilities, sexual offences and harassment was shared with the learners.

As part of the departmental efforts to heighten awareness on the protection of children’s rights, the senior prosecutor, Mr Camagu Mtshemla gave a thorough explanation on the functioning of the children’s court. The learners had earlier taken a court tour which also took them to the prison cells where they got a brief experience of a prison cell. 

Kungawo Tumani, a Grade 7 pupil from Sinako Primary School said although it was traumatising to see the prison cells, it was also helpful. “Now I know that it’s very easy to report a case and I understand how court proceedings work and that no one has a right to take anything away from me,” he said.

Excited Yonela Sabloko, a Grade 7 pupil at the same school said it was her first time to visit a court and thanked the department for its endless efforts in trying to protect children. “I now know how to report should anybody do something bad to me and that I should not be ashamed to speak out,” he said.

The schools visited for information sessions were Zamukukhanya Primary in Frankfort, Sinako Primary in Bisho, Qaqamba Primary in Zwelitsha, Thamara Primary in Thamara and Luzuko Primary in Sweetwaters which are in the townships as well as the surrounding rural areas.

A total of 300 learners were reached over a period of two days during the visits.  About 10 school children were then taken from each school to the Zwelitsha Magistrate’s Court to have an insight of the court procedures.

Zwelitsha Magistrate’s Court officials pulled out all stops in welcoming and presenting a series of issues pertaining to the Child Protection Week. In his presentation, senior magistrate, Mr Thozamile Tetyana encouraged communities and teachers to work together to protect children.

“I wish to send a message to children to never accept candy, gifts or money from strangers. They shouldn’t allow strangers into their homes and not wonder off with someone whom they do not know. These measures can go a long way in protecting children from harm,” he warned.

In encouraging kids to speak out and have no fear of being exposed to culprits, they were shown a children’s court set-up and the procedures taken when dealing with cases involving minors. They got to learn about how the CCTV works in court, the use of dolls and the relevant stakeholders that seat in court during the proceedings. Learners got an understanding of how a magistrate, prosecutor, lawyer, an interpreter, and an intermediary look like in terms of dress code and different roles they play in cases affecting children.

The principal of Zamukukhanya Primary School, Ms Nomaza Mthembu thanked the department for the informative sessions for the children. “We also try to teach them - in the lower grades - about their rights and responsibilities. Children are always abused in this area but because of lack of information, they do not speak out,” expressed Ms Mthembu.

The day got brighter when officials handed over lunch boxes, pens and juice bottles to the school children. Zwelitsha Magistrate’s Court manager, Ms Thobeka Ndzube applauded all the children for their cooperation and participation. “I encourage children to say ‘NO’ when someone wants to touch their bodies and to immediately report such incidents to the elders and teachers of whatever abuse they encounter, be it bullying at school, sexual abuse or physical abuse by anyone,” she said.

Ms Ndzube further said children transgressing the law should also be treated and handled in a rehabilitating manner. She encouraged all children who feel that they are not protected from abuse to visit the nearest magistrate’s court and report the incidents. 

“We are always available on daily basis to assist and advise as we work with the police, social workers and the community. It is very important that our children be informed and made aware of their rights and which channels to follow when they are ill-treated or introduced to alcohol and drugs,” she concluded.

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By Glory Msungwa

03 June 2013