The protection of children should not be a concern for one week a year, but on every day of every year, Premier Alan Winde said at the start of Child Protection Week and Youth Month.
“This week marks Child Protection Week and the start of youth month. Both of these occasions demand that we pay close attention to the well-being and safety of our young people and children, putting plans in place to ensure they are protected and able to thrive year round,” Premier Winde said.
“Last week, 11 year old Ashwin Jones was gunned down in Eureka Estate. I can't imagine the pain of having to bury your own child, and yet too many parents in this province have lost their children to senseless violence, which is exacerbated by the presence of gangs and drugs in our communities. As a province we need to be doing more.'
“Children are not safe in this province. We have seencountless children become the innocent victims of gang violence. I have seen first-hand how drugs and alcohol ravage communities in this province and the neglect, abuse and trauma that comes with that.”
Premier Winde said: “Police resources in this province are pitifully low, our police service is stretched to the limit and it is impacting their ability to prevent crime and successfully investigate and prosecute after a crime has occurred.”
“Our focus on child protection should not be for one week in the year, but should include an ongoing focus on making communities safer, tackling societal problems like drug and alcohol abuse that contribute to child abuse and violence and developing programs that are aimed at educating young people and keeping them safe.”
“As a province, we have committed to driving community safety. Our focus on commuter transportis toensure that children are able to get to school safely while our drive to create jobs for young people willfocus ontackling the poverty and unemployment that drive young people to a life of crime or gangsterism”
Premier Winde also said he looked forward to working together with the Western Cape Provincial Parliament to find the right candidate to act as the province’s first Children’s Commissioner.
The legislation which was gazettedat the end of March dictates that specific steps need to be taken in the appointment of the Children’s Commissioner. These include:
A committee established by the Western Cape Provincial Parliament must advertise for nominations of potential candidates from civil society.
The names of all nominees must be published in order for members of the public to object to any potential candidates. Copies of all the names and objections will also be forwarded to the Premier.
The committee must consider the nominations and objections and invite potential candidates for interviews.
The committee will draw up a shortlist of candidates, which will be sent to Provincial Parliament for adoption.
Provincial Parliament will then recommend the shortlist to the Premier, after it has approved of the names on the list by a resolution adopted with a majority of votes cast.
The Premier must, within 14 days of receiving the list, appoint a commissioner.
Premier Winde said: “I hope the candidate selection process starts as soon as possible to ensure a fit-for-purpose candidate can be appointed before the end of the year. The successful candidate will be entrusted with lobbying for children and ensuring that their best interests are upheld, so we need to find the right person for the job.”
The Western Cape Government has a number of programs in place aimed at children and the youth, including the After-School Game Changer project, which allows pupils to participate in after school activities in order to improve educational outcomes and minimize risk taking behaviours. Over 80 000 learners participated in this programme regularly in the past year.
The WGC has established youth cafes across the province, which record around 10 000 visits per month.
The Department of Social Development has since 2009, quadrupled the number of youths benefiting from youth development services.
Over 75 000 children received placement in government funded Early Childhood Development Centres in 2018.
Walking buses as a safety initiativehas also been introducedin 75 areas and over 200 schools in the province.
TheWestern CapeDepartment of Educationhas a dedicated safe schools call centre. Additionally, over 100 school resource officers have been deployed to schools in high crime areas, where they play an important role in enhancing learner safety.
Premier Winde said: “The Western Cape Government spends a large proportion of its budget on programmes and projects aimed at children throughout the year but we also have a number of projects across departments, for youth month.”
The Department of Community Safety, under Minister Fritz, will be focusing on the Youth Safety and Religious program, during Youth Month and over the June/ July school holiday period. This program funds religious institutions to implement safety initiatives during the school holidays.
The Department of Transport and Public Works, under Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela, will be focusing on youth safety on the roads with a road safety open day to take place at Killarney raceway on June 14.
“Young, inexperienced drivers are statistically more likely to die on the roads in this country. International research shows us that crashes involving alcohol, speeding and passengers are about twenty times more likely for drivers in their teens, than for drivers in their 20s,” Premier Winde said.