Child Protection Week: A call to end violence against children

Crime is a reality in SA and equipping children with safety information will help them to pre-empt any danger they may find themselves in.

 The purpose of Child Protection Week is not to create a sense of fear, but rather to teach and reinforce practical safety tips that will guide your child’s actions.

It’s a tragic fact: South Africa’s children continue to face disturbing levels of crime, as confirmed when the SAPS released their latest quarterly crime statistics update earlier in May. Police Minister Bheki Cele told journalists during his presentation that despite some decreases in crime categories, “… it was unacceptable that many women and children continued to be targeted”.

“Children in South Africa live in a society with a Constitution that has the highest regard for their rights. The Constitution clearly sets out that protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse is not only a value but also an obligation. We should use this year’s National Child Protection Week (30 May – 6 June 2021) to galvanise our efforts, to rid our nation of the scourge of crime targeted at children,” says Charnel Hattingh, Head of Marketing and Communications at Fidelity ADT.

National Child Protection Week

National Child Protection Week is commemorated annually to raise awareness of the rights of children as articulated in the Constitution. The campaign is led by the Department of Social Development in partnership with key government departments and civil society organisations rendering child protection services. (https://www.gov.za/ChildProtectionWeek2021)

“The purpose of creating this awareness is not to create a sense of fear, but rather to teach and reinforce practical safety tips that will guide your child’s actions. While parents and guardians hope their youngsters never find themselves in a dangerous situation, it is always best to make sure they are prepared,” says Hattingh.

Teach your children the importance of being safe

A child’s safety is a top priority for any parent and ensuring they are responsible is a necessity. “Information teaching them not to engage or leave their school’s premises with any strangers, especially overfriendly individuals, is the golden rule but is just one of many important rules to convey,” says Hattingh.

Children waiting to be fetched after school should also remember to stay within the school’s premises. If they usually walk home, parents should advise their children to walk in a group. Some communities have started “walking buses”, where adults walk with a group of children on their way to or from school as an added safety and security element.

“If they are unable to stay in a group on their way home, advise them to stick to familiar roads and avoid quiet side-roads, alleys, or fields. Children who are alone at home in the afternoons, should understand why not to open the door for strangers and have the necessary emergency numbers in close proximity to the home phone or pre-programmed on their mobile phones,” advises Hattingh.

What to do in the event of a crime

These practical tips are useful for children and adults alike and should be kept simple enough to remember in times of crisis:

  • You must make it clear that you are not a threat to them. With the exception of a life-and-death situation, fighting back must be avoided and any material possessions readily given over. Your life is more valuable than a cellphone
  • If you are in trouble or someone is trying to kidnap you, make a noise and draw attention. Scream “no!” and try to get away
  • Get as many details about the criminal as possible. Encourage children to make quick observations without staring at the perpetrator or coming across as defiant.

“Any characteristics that could help with the identification of a suspect (such as visible scars, noticeable accents and tattoos, and their outfit) will help with future investigations to apprehend them,” says Hattingh.

A basic understanding of these safety measures will be useful for any child. This is the motivation for a series of practical workshops arranged by Fidelity ADT, in which it sends a trainer to primary schools to educate young learners about safety and security habits.

Reiterating these tips is also crucial since the more parents repeat them, the more it will stick with your child.

“These tips are fundamental for all children whether parents are at home or at work. Teaching your children how to avoid and handle themselves in dangerous situations is one of the best things you can do,” concludes Hattingh.