There are many reasons for the high levels of violence in South Africa, but when it comes to violence towards children, the statistics are frightening. Frighteningly, there are no recent statistics on the level of child abuse in South Africa, but police statistics show that in 2011/2012 50,688 children were victims of violent crimes in South Africa, but not all crimes are reported often because the child is too young to report the crime (or tell someone what happened), are afraid to speak up because they fear the criminal, are unsure of what will happen when they report the crime (or tell some- one what happened) or simply don’t know where to report the crime.
“Abuse can happen in schools not only from other children but from those whose role is to care and educate while under their supervision,” remarks Dr Lauren Stretch, Managing Director of Early Inspiration. “Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people is a fundamental responsibility that cannot be compromised by other considerations.”
Children and young people have a right to:
- be treated with respect and to be protected from harm
- be asked to express their views and wishes about matters affecting their lives and to have those views appropriately considered by adults
- feel and be safe in their interactions with adults, other children and young people
- understand, as early as possible, what is meant by ‘feeling and being safe’
- the support of school based counsellors or designated staff in their education or care environment whose role includes being an advocate for their safety and wellbeing
This Child Protection Week (May 17th – 24th), an initiative of the Department of Social Development, Early Inspiration is urging ECD professionals to establish and maintain child-safe environments.
“Positive actions and efforts of people from within and outside the education and care setting are needed so that interventions on behalf of children and young people are successful and sustained,” adds Dr Stretch. “Be the safety and wellbeing concerns arise within family, community and institutional settings, it’s up to everyone to step up, intervene and educate children about what they can do if they are victim of abuse.”
There are five obligations that Early Inspiration believes ECD and education professionals should adhere to:
- Screening and suitability: Staff, volunteers and other persons need to be screened as part of an on-going process to ensure adults are suitable to work, access or volunteer in ECD centres.
Suitability must be established at the point of recruitment and monitored continuously
Continuous monitoring of suitability includes the responsibility of all adults to safely report inappropriate conduct towards children and young people by any person engaged with the site or service
- Training and support: Staff and volunteers need to receive training that explains their responsibilities for children’s safety and well-being and understand how responsibilities should be met with sensitivity and purpose.
- Adult conduct: ECD professionals need to relate respectfully and protectively with children and young people. And they need to understand they have a responsibility to report and intervene against behaviours that compromise the safety or wellbeing of children and young people.
Staff and volunteers must report and document concerns raised about inappropriate adult conduct towards children and young people
Staff will follow approved attendance, behaviour management and incident response policies and guidelines
- Access to curriculum: Children and young people engage with the curriculum which teaches them about the nature of personal safety and wellbeing, their rights to personal safety and wellbeing, help seeking and self-protecting behaviours and their responsibilities to the safety and wellbeing of others.
- Communication, collaboration and record keeping: Issues affecting children and young people’s safety and wellbeing are often complex. Successful interventions require carefully coordinated and communicated actions. Staff should meet the following commitments, as required by their role.
On enrolment parents/carers should be made aware of the ECD centre’s commitment to children’s safety, and that some matters must be reported irrespective of parents’ wishes
Parents and carers to be appropriately informed about allegations of sexual misconduct and report to the appropriate agencies and organisations when the needs of vulnerable children and young people are identified.
Education and care staff will actively support interagency efforts to improve family and community safety.
For more information on the role of child protection in ECD, please contact the Early Inspiration office on 041 373 0884 or firstname.lastname@example.org.