More needs to be done to protect learners who travel long distances to get to school
The right to an education and the right to safety are two of the basic rights entrenched in South Africa’s constitution. These two rights and others underpin what we are all about as a nation. When it comes to children, adults and the state must do all they can to keep them happy and protected and sometimes we fail them.
Former President Nelson Mandela once said: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people.”
For me, this quote means that how we care and treat children now, will determine what kind of tomorrow we will have as a country.
Taking a look at learners and what they have to go through to sit behind a desk can be heartbreaking. A large number of learners attend a school far away from where they live. Some children in the rural areas walk for more than an hour just to get to school, they go through treacherous terrains, some of them never make it home, and let’s not forget older men who cease the opportunity to exploit and sexually assault children in exchange for a ride to school.
To avoid drowning when children cross rivers, some learners take lifts they are offered by a predator who in turn sexually assault them. Long distance travel also means that by the time children get to school, they are not only tired but also hungry. That then puts them at a huge disadvantage in actually learning when they get to school. In the quest for quality education learners from townships also sit in packed taxis, buses and trains just to get an education.
According to Equal Education Law Centre, a principal in KZN says when there are heavy rains up to 60% of the kids don’t make it to school because it just becomes too dangerous to embark on the long walk to school. That scenario affects about 2 million kids across the country.
Abuse isn’t just fists and bumps; when a country knows and lives with the fact that 2 million children continue to be vulnerable that on its own is abuse.
Children continue to be most vulnerable in the world, in this country. While we observe the 16 days of activism against the abuse of women and children, South Africa needs to ask itself, how it treat its children and what the results thereof will be?
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