Zuma: 'We must strengthen families'

President Jacob Zuma. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma on Sunday called on South Africans to unite to protect children. He was speaking in Kimberley at the launch of Child Protection Week, which begins on Monday and continues until next Sunday.

“We have to work together to protect children in distress, children who suffer neglect, abuse or exploitation and children who live in extreme poverty and for whom life still remains a struggle,” he said.

Section 28 of the Constitution outlined all rights accorded to children.

In 2010, the Children’s Act came into operation to give effect to these rights. It set out the principles relation to care and protection of children and defined parental responsibilities in the interest of the rights of children.

“We must all make an effort to know the Children’s Act so that we can educate our children,” he said.

Many families grapple with the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

These impacted on children more than adults. Government was prioritising children through education, health, rural unemployment, the creation of decent work and the fight against crime.

Eight million children attend school without paying fees. More than 10-million children benefit from social grants.

However, communities could also help to protect children.

“Firstly, we must strengthen families,” Zuma said.

Policies such as the migrant labour system had created absent fathers and female-headed households.

Government had introduced a green paper on the family through the department of social development.

Secondly, children should be raised with the values of ubuntu and respect. They should be taught the basics of non-racialism, equality and diversity, and know the history of oppression in the country.

“Certain incidents have happened in the country this month which necessitate a more honest look at our society and where we are in the nation building project,” Zuma said without specifying further.

“For example we have been reminded of the period of slavery in the 1800s when our sister Sarah Baartman, was exhibited in London and Paris because the shape of her body was a novelty in Europe.”

After her death, her brain and genitals were preserved in jars and displayed alongside her skeleton.

Her remains were only brought home and buried in 2002.

“We must tell all South African children such stories to make them stronger and appreciative of where we come from. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we have completely eradicated racism and prejudice in only 17 years of freedom,” Zuma said.

He called for the exposure of child abusers. Suspicious behaviour should be reported and perpetrators should face the full might of the law. – Sapa

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