31 May 2023

By Bernice Maponyane, Programme Manager: Social Welfare, Adopt-a-School

Child neglect and abuse are distressing issues that South Africa continues to grapple with. The country faces significant challenges in safeguarding children and ensuring their well-being. While exact figures may vary over time, available statistics paint a concerning picture of child neglect and abuse in South Africa.

A UNICEF South Africa 2021 report shows that between October and December 2021, 352 children were killed, 394 survived attempted murder, and 2 048 were victims of physical assault. UNICEF 2022 statistics show that between April and June of that year, 243 children were killed, and 1 670 were victims of grievous bodily harm.

Child Protection Week this week helps raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding the well-being and rights of children.

Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation’s Thari Programme, a pilot programme to support vulnerable children and families, was established in 2017 to tackle social ills in eight schools of Botshabelo in the Free State, and at a school in Diepsloot, Gauteng. The programme is implemented by the Foundation’s partner entity, Adopt-a-School.

The Foundation found that the abuse, neglect and violence that children may experience at school, home and in the community, impacts learning outcomes, and that interventions to curb this were needed.

The objective of the programme is to facilitate a safe school environment that is free from violence, is academically effective, inclusive, and gender-sensitive, while promoting health and well-being for all.

The Thari Programme rests on three pillars: psychosocial support, Safe Parks, and a multisectoral approach. Psychosocial services provide support through Youth and Child Care Workers to address emotional problems, sexual abuse, neglect, other forms of abuse and poverty related issues.

Thari’s Safe Parks provide a secure and therapeutic space for children, specifically children lacking in after-school care, to go to after school, at weekends and over school holidays.

The multisectoral approach consists of local community forums of multiple stakeholders that provide services to address issues like gangsterism, substance abuse and bullying.

Through these pillars, Thari has registered over 1 058 children in the programme since January 2019, reached over 2 221 learners through the Safe Parks, and over 13 213 participants in awareness campaigns.