The Thari Programme for the support of Women and Children is a groundbreaking initiative designed to provide safe places for vulnerable children, youths and women that are inclusive, free from violence, academically effective, gender sensitive, and promote health and well-being, was launched by the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation (CRF) on Friday, 15 September 2017. Reentseng Primary School in Botshabelo, is the first of eight pilot schools in Botshabelo and Diepsloot, Gauteng, at which the programme will be implemented by Adopt-a-School Foundation (AAS), a partner entity of CRF.

The launch saw the unveiling of the first Thari Safe Park which will provide a range of structured recreational and developmental activities that will keep children occupied and safe before and after school and during breaks. They will also be open during school holidays, on weekends, and on public holidays. Activities on offer include homework supervision, remedial academic and reading programs, screening for abuse, and structured recreation and play activities.

“We have spent nearly 15 years improving the lives of vulnerable communities through education and entrepreneurship programmes. The Thari Programme is a natural extension of that mission,” said Donné Nicol, Chief Executive Officer of CRF. “By providing a stable, supportive environment for children, we give them a much better chance of remaining healthy and happy, and becoming active contributors to the economy in later life,” she continues.

“In Tswana, ‘thari’ means the blanket that is used to cover and carry a child. It also means the lining that protects a baby while it is in its mother’s womb,” said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Executive Chairman of CRF. “This programme will serve the same function, it will protect and carry our vulnerable young people until they are equipped to take care of themselves,” he continued.

“Children are society’s greatest asset. Only by taking good care of them today, can we ensure our future,” ‘he said to an audience of over 2000 people.

The programme is the result of a multi-sectoral partnership that includes various stakeholders from government departments such as the Departments of Basic Education, Social Development, Health, and Justice as well as the Botshabelo Education Committee (BEDCOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the National Association for Child Care Workers (NACCW), the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA), Love Life, and the University of Free State (UFS). It also includes other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) working in schools, such as Columba Leadership, the Transnet Foundation, the South African National Council on Alcoholism (SANCA), and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

Botshabelo is the ideal environment for the launch of this first Safe Park. With an unemployment rate of nearly 40%, the township is plagued by crime and violence which disproportionately affects vulnerable women and children. Substance abuse and teenage pregnancy are rife, as are learning disabilities. Many households are headed by a grandparent or an orphaned child. Although many stakeholders have been working to address these community problems, a lack of collaboration has hampered successful outcomes.

The safe park will be managed by NACCW members in collaboration with the host schools and AAS. The programme is based on the Isibindi Ezikoleni Model, an initiative that deploys trained community-based child- and youth-care workers in communities in an innovative team outreach programme which aims to provide care, protection and developmental support to vulnerable children and families. Facilities at the safe park includes buildings dedicated to reading and theatre performances, movable study benches, soccer fields, hop scotch and chess sets, swings, and multi-purpose sports courts.

The programme is an opportunity to provide basic psychosocial support services to women and children, and to empower them to protect themselves against abuse and exploitation. It also allows for dialogues that empower men and boys to address social issues including masculinity, violence, inclusivity and gender sensitivity. CRF aims to reach and positively impact thousands of women and children in the Botshabelo community and utilise the results of this pilot to scale and replicate the model to other parts of the country.

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