1 – 7 June 2020 marks Child Protection Week, an initiative aimed to raise awareness on the rights of children as articulated in the Children’s Act of 2005. Thari, a programme of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation that is implemented by its partner entity, Adopt-a-School, aims to continue to raise awareness of the rights of children. Thari is a programme aimed at strengthening school communities by creating safe, academically effective, inclusive and gender-sensitive environments free from violence to promote health and well-being.

Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation through Adopt-a-School, has previously commemorated Child Protection Week through events that expose the prevalence of social ills and violence within communities, including multi-stakeholder forums, conferences and sport tournaments that engage learners on issues like bullying, harassment and fighting.

This year, Child Protection Week takes place in a time of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has affected many children throughout the country, most notably those who depend on social welfare and psychosocial support services from schools.

“This year with psychosocial support services on hold due to COVID-19, Adopt-a-School is worried that this may exacerbate the risks posed to the children such as abuse, neglect, and poverty-related challenges,” Adopt-a-School Foundation’s Social Welfare Programme Manager, Bernice Maponyane, said. “Our Child Care Youth Care Workers continue to offer support virtually, however it is limiting compared to face-to-face,” she continued.

According to Maponyane, it is acknowledged that a child’s ability to learn is affected not only by the quality of teaching and access to resources, but also by its health, well-being and emotional state of mind.

She raised concern that children who suffer abuse or neglect often react by becoming withdrawn or anti-social.

“Some learners become disruptive or even violent at school, bullying other children and forming gangs. Many of these children drop out of school and are at increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse. Unless children are adequately nurtured and protected from harm, no amount of improvement to the schooling environment will yield better educational outcomes,” Maponyane said.

Last year the Thari Programme hosted a Sports Tournament among eight schools in Botshabelo near Bloemfontein. The event aimed at raising awareness on safety and condemning the rising acts of violence in schools. Watch the video below.