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Focus on child-on-child violence

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Times have changed when children were forced to just be seen and not heard

TAKING CHARGE: Armbands were handed out to children who signed the pledge #My voice I take charge, during the launch of Child Protection Week. Picture: Soraya Crowie

VIOLENCE by children on other children will be the focus of the Child Protection Week programme which was launched at the Mayibuye Cultural Centre in Galeshewe yesterday.

Several government departments, including Social Development, Education and the Premier’s Office, held a dialogue with children from different schools in the city.

Around 100 pupils from Thabane High School, Kimberley Boys’ High School and Tetlanyo High School participated in the dialogue, where matters affecting children were discussed.

The provincial director for Children and Families in the Department of Social Development, Martie Lotz, said that they had decided to let the children actively participate in the programme as they know best the challenges they are faced with.

“Unlike in the past where there used to be programmes run for children, we decided to give the children a voice and the power to run the programme themselves. Children are faced with various challenges, such as substance abuse and bullying, and they are the ones who can inform government on how to best solve these problems. Some of the perpetrators of the crimes against children are the children’s peers. Times have changed when children were forced to just be seen and not heard. We need to give them the power as they have the solutions to the challenges they face,” said Lotz.

She added that the increasing reports of child perpetrators also provided an opportunity to address social ills in communities.

“There are so many reports where children were involved in violent crimes. We had an incident where a child was killed for his shoes. The perpetrators were also children. We cannot just address the criminal issue and not see what is at the core of the problem. We have also realised that the age of children who abuse substances are getting younger. We need to tackle those challenges and establish why children are falling into these traps.”

Lotz said they were also focusing on programmes to inspire children to solve social problems themselves.

“This programme is run throughout the year. There are various programmes where we encourage children to actively become involved in solving the social ills in their communities. Pupils from different schools will this week sign a pledge where they commit themselves to not get involved in any criminal activities. They are then presented with an armband where the community can identify them or remind them of the pledge they have taken.

“Some schools in the various districts also run community projects on how they are assisting and building their communities. The portfolio’s of these projects will then be submitted to the department and the best ones will be selected. We also select ambassadors to work with the department to address the challenges of children. The ambassadors and winners of the projects will be selected during a gala evening in June this year. This is also to show other children who may feel hopeless how their peers are tackling their daily challenges,” Lotz said.