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EMPOWERING TOMORROW: A CHILDREN’S HUMAN RIGHTS IMPERATIVE

Anzio Jacobs | 27 March 2024



As we immerse ourselves in the significance of Human Rights Month, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund echoes a resounding call to action, reverberating from every corner of our society.


All South Africans must confront the harsh realities faced by the most vulnerable among us – our children. There is no room left for ignorance; our society is ailing.


Recent events, such as the unsettling disappearance of Joslin Smith, have underscored the precarious nature of our communities’ safety nets, leaving our children exposed and vulnerable.


Despite the acknowledgement of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) by our leaders, this pervasive scourge continues to plague our nation, particularly within our most disenfranchised communities. This cannot be allowed to persist unchallenged. As ordinary South Africans, we must answer the call to safeguard the hard-earned rights of all, especially our children.


At the core of our mission lies a genuine desire to effect substantial change in how we treat our children and youth as a nation and beyond our borders. This vision, championed by our late founder, Nelson Mandela, remains as relevant today as ever. However, as we reflect on nearly three decades of democracy, there is little cause for celebration.

Tintswalo’s story is an anomaly. It serves only as a stark reminder of the myriad challenges our children face, from falling victim to stray bullets in their neighbourhoods to navigating an unjust justice system. We cannot turn a blind eye to the liberation of some while others remain shackled by fear and insecurity.


The economic, social, and environmental crises that grip our nation have converged to create a poly-crisis, exacerbating the already unbearable living conditions for those on the margins of society. In communities where economic hardship is rife, families struggle to provide even the necessities, contributing to a cycle of violence and despair. We must adopt a holistic approach to address the root causes of inequality and injustice; we need change, not lip service.


As we navigate these challenges, we must scrutinise resource allocation, particularly within the education sector. Over the past three decades, budgetary trends concerning children's rights have fluctuated, mirroring the broader socio-economic landscape.


Analysis of budget speeches reveals a nuanced trajectory, with periods of increased investment juxtaposed with austerity measures and budget cuts. And yet, our economy rests on the stability of our education system as a whole.


Education is a cornerstone of societal transformation, yet disparities between schools in affluent and impoverished areas persist, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. We must prioritise quintile 1 and 2 schools, ensuring they receive the necessary resources to provide quality education. Holding government officials and administrators accountable through tangible actions and audited records is paramount in this endeavour.


We must reassess our educational paradigm, shifting the focus from purely academic pursuits to a more holistic approach that embraces vocational and technical skills. Equipping our youth with practical skills, such as carpentry and agriculture, empowers them to participate in the economy and actively foster sustainable growth. Asian economies exemplify this approach, which underscores the transformative potential of combining academic knowledge with vocational expertise to uplift marginalised communities.


In envisioning a brighter future for our children, we must confront the harsh realities of the present. Tintswalo’s story symbolises both the promise of progress and the stark realities of regression. It serves as a critical reminder of our collective responsibility towards our children, a responsibility enshrined in our Constitution and foundational to our democratic ethos.


We need to step in as a society again and reclaim ownership of our social and moral fabric.


We need to learn to love each other as South Africans in all our diversity and step forward to play our role in helping those who cannot help themselves, as we have done at the ICJ (International Court of Justice) in support of a ceasefire and the protection of life. We as a nation cannot stand in silence as we watch those most vulnerable fall victim to violence that can and should be stopped.


As we navigate the complexities of present-day South Africa, let us heed the call to pursue a future where every child can thrive. Let us transcend political divides as we head into uncharted waters as a nation and begin to do the work to heal. Let us forgo individual interests, uniting under the banner of human rights and social justice. For in Tintswalo's story lies the promise of a better tomorrow, where every child's rights are fiercely protected and upheld.


In conclusion, as we commemorate Human Rights Month, let us reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the fundamental rights of every child. Let us harness the collective power of action to dismantle the barriers hindering their progress and unlock their boundless potential.


By empowering our children, we empower the future of our nation.


Jacobs is the acting child safety and protection manager at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.


‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.



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