Tragically, 28 children fall victim to violent attacks every day in South Africa and three of these children lose their lives daily. These are startling statistics revealed during this year’s National Child Protection Week and the South African Police’s quarterly crime statistics which indicated that during the initial quarter of this year, a staggering 245 children met a violent demise, while an additional 2291 were subjected to various forms of violence.
These statistics indicate that children are one of the most vulnerable members of our society, and their future, along with their societies, is under threat due to the adverse effects of violence, disease, malnutrition, and poverty.
The United Nations has found that children’s earliest experiences significantly influence their future development. The impact an individual has on society throughout their lifetime is largely dependent on the trajectory of their personal development. This can either result in a valuable contribution or a significant cost to society.
‘’Child abuse in South Africa remains a pervasive issue, with children enduring a range of abuses such as physical, emotional, sexual, and neglect’’, says Nkazimulo Zitha, the Head of Achievement at SPARK Schools. All South Africans have a responsibility to act as watchful eyes and attentive ears for our children.
According to experts, child abuse can take on various forms, with the five most common types being emotional abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, new form of child abuse has emerged in the digital era, which includes cyberbullying, grooming, and pornography, Zitha says.
The crime statistics in our country are alarming and it is crucial for all individuals, including parents, caregivers, teachers, and members of the community, to take responsibility for safeguarding children. The safety and protection of children is a fundamental right that must be upheld, and it is incumbent upon us to guarantee the fulfilment of these rights, Zitha says.
As parents, it is often challenging to discern whether one’s intuition regarding child abuse and neglect is accurate. When a child has been or is experiencing abuse, there are frequently behavioural or physical indicators of stress. According to Zitha, common signs of child abuse may manifest as a sense of distrust or wariness towards adults, as well as extreme behaviours such as aggression, submissiveness, anxiety, or distress.
SPARK Schools recently added a Child Protection Officer to their schools as safeguarding our children is our number one priority and this individual who has experience as a Social Worker will ensure the delivery of preventive measures around child protection issues within the communities that we serve. This approach not only provides a secure and supportive environment for them to flourish but also enables us to promptly address any potential signs of abuse or challenges that may arise.
Schools and communities are presented with a unique opportunity to educate children, parents, and carers on the various types of child abuse and the measures that can be taken to prevent them. According to Tshegofatso Komape SPARK School’s newly appointed Child Protection Officer, it is crucial to report suspected cases of abuse to enable the authorities to intervene and provide support to affected children.
According to Zitha, child protection awareness can extend far beyond the designated child protection week. Schools and communities can continue to promote this cause by arranging various events such as workshops, awareness sessions, and activities that prioritise child protection. It is recommended that individuals and organisations review their current child protection policies and procedures to ensure their effectiveness and relevance. It is important to keep these policies up to date to ensure the safety and well-being of children.
SPARK Schools institution’s philosophy is to create a society that aligns with its values. This involves providing an education system that is both affordable and accessible. Additionally, it aims to instil core values in their students through their academic work, and achievements, and by encouraging them to be good and kind individuals.