I was horrified when I heard that more than 30 000 child abuse cases were reported in last decade. And this year, we were all shocked to hear about the “house of horror”, where a father in Springs, Johannesburg abused his wife and 5 children for more than 10 years.
It is even more disturbing to me when I hear of cases of abuse and violence that are perpetrated by children. It indicates to me that children in South Africa are traumatised and have been exposed to violent behaviour at home.
According to Statistics SA South Africa “has one of the highest rates of father absence in the world”. They argue that this means that “children are left vulnerable owing to an unconventional family structure and poor parenting”. Equally alarming is the number of children in South African that grow up as orphans in child-headed households as this forces children to assume adult responsibilities further exposing them to violent or inappropriate behaviour.
These unconventional circumstances make me wonder, what kind of adults are we creating? I believe that a society that does not actively work to protect its children is preparing the way for perpetual violence.
The effects of this early onset trauma have lifelong consequences. Children who are robbed of their childhood never fully realise their full potential. To create a strong society we need to make the preservation and protection children’s innocents a priority.
I am appalled by the blatant disregard for children’s emotional and social needs in current day South Africa. Children can’t even be children anymore – they don’t have opportunity to play or to explore without fear. It’s a sad fact when, in this day and age, the circumstance you are born into still determines your access to health, social services and education.
It’s odd that that while this is the majority, the privileged few remain ignorant to the plight of their fellow citizens in the so-called ‘rainbow nation’. I am forever grateful that I am in a situation where I have chosen to make a difference. My work allows me to give children hope regardless of the odds stacked against them.
We provide toy libraries and playgroups where children are safe and protected, given a warm home cooked meal, hugs and time to be a child. One of my most gratifying moments was on a visit to one of the groups in Hlabisa, KZN. I sat at a table with a bright eyed little girl who instructed me as to where I should place my freshly rolled play dough ball, at least that’s what I think she said since she spoke isiZulu.
This glimpse into a future where children are bold, creative and independent thinkers motivates me to continue the work we have started. We have a long way to go but, I am determined to reach each child in South Africa to ensure they are able to reach their full potential.
I’ll leave you with this thought: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." – Frederick Douglass