Debate On International Children's Day

By Mrs S P Lebenya-Ntanzi MP



National Assembly: 1 June 2010


Honourable Speaker,


Today the world community join hands in observing International Children's Day, to amongst other things renew our commitment to improving the lives of our children around the world.


Each year, the significance of the celebration of International Children's Day lies in the fact that we examine how far we have come to better the lives of our children. This also gives us an opportunity to espouse a fresh vigour in the level of engagement so that we continue to prioritise issues affecting our children and continuously strive to find ways of improving their standards of living. We also strive to improve the lives of children by seeking innovative solutions to eradicate poverty.


As we celebrate the International Children's Day today, it is of utmost importance that we look very critically at our progress in promoting children's rights in our country. While it is important to co-operate and to comply with International agreements; we dare not forget that our most important responsibility lies in ensuring that South African Children's rights are protected at all costs.


In terms of our Constitution a huge responsibility lies on the State to put in place systems and to take positive action to ensure that all the rights entrenched in our Constitution do not only remain on paper, but that they are implemented; and above all our children should enjoy their rights.


The link between education and public health is strong: according to the Global Campaign for Education, if all children received a complete primary education, as many as 700,000 cases of HIV could be prevented each year.

According to recent studies, AIDS kills over 2 million people a year or about one person every 15 seconds worldwide. This death toll shockingly includes a lot of children, who are often infected with HIV during pregnancy or through breast feeding. The toll is worst in Africa, where millions of parents have died, leaving children as orphans. It is very sad that HIV/AIDS deprives children of their parents.


Recent estimates put the figure of orphans in Africa in the range of thirteen to fifteen million children. If the children left orphaned are not given the care and education enjoyed by those whose parents remain uninfected, there will be increasing inequality among the next generation of adults and the families they form. One of the more unfortunate responses to a death in poorer households is removing the children from school, often because the school uniforms and fees become unaffordable for the families.

It is hard to overemphasise the trauma and hardship that children affected by HIV and AIDS are forced to bear.  The epidemic not only causes children to lose their parents or guardians, but sometimes their childhood as well.


The IFP is of the view that the South African government should expedite means to strengthen and develop community structures which can assist in providing care and protection for children from discrimination, exploitation and any other physical or emotional harm.


It is extremely important that girl children have access to education.  I am saying this very mindful of the fact that the majority of our children, especially in rural areas are still taught under trees. These are just some of the obstacles that prevent our children from getting access to quality education. 


It is important to note, that women with some formal education are more likely to seek medical care, ensure their children are immunized, be better informed about their children's nutritional requirements, and adopt improved sanitation practices. As a result, their infants and children have higher survival rates and tend to be healthier and better nourished. 


The IFP is extremely concerned about the recent deaths of 17 babies in our public hospitals almost on the eve of the International Children's Day and this is testimony to our day-to-day outcry that our public health facilities are not equipped to provide proper healthcare for all, especially the most vulnerable of our society. 


Another critical issue facing children which should be viewed in a serious light, especially in the context of the World Cup, is the trafficking of children.  This needs to be given the necessary attention it deserves.


The IFP calls on the Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disability in conjunction with other relevant clusters to put stringent measures in place to reduce the risk of child trafficking during the Fifa sports extravaganza.


Honourable Speaker,


I wish to conclude by quoting Ann Landers when she said: "In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings."


I thank you!


Ms Pat Lebenya-Ntanzi MP
078 186 3619