children’s rights bullies

This week SABC 1, SA TV channel broadcast a programme on “lunchbox bullies” which was filmed in a school located in Alexandra Township, northern part of Johannesburg.

The programme focused on learners who are considered “naughty”- they bully other children, steal their food, beat and punch occasionally during break time. These bullies were then followed to their homes and caregivers were interviewed.

One story revealed a child who has been beaten regularly when he comes home and asks for food. The scars and bruises all over his head can’t hide the truth; His head has been thrown onto the wall and punched and all because he asked to eat!  His grandmother seldom hides food for him while his mother spends her time drinking booze with friends. The reality is that most of the time this child walks hungry, his most basic needs not met. Subsequently at school he is caught stealing a sandwich from someone’s lunch box and R2 from his gran so he can buy a Simba chips for 50cents.

Those learners are an example of many other children living in impoverished areas where children’s rights are violated on a daily basis. 

It just happened to be that the programme was filmed in the same school ORT SA has intervention in Mathematic at the Foundation Phase (Grades 1-3), where intensive work is done with teachers and vast amount of money has gone into provision of resources and textbooks.

Therefore it made me think that there is no doubt that education is critical for these learners and the society they live in. Also the fact that those learners acknowledged the importance of education in their lives may be a step forward to a better future.  However, I’m not sure it’s enough, as very soon those learners will drop out school to satisfy their basic needs and become a burden to society.

Our role as the NGO at these schools is to ensure these learners have access to best education possible. We do what we know best i.e., teachers’ professional development; enhancing content, subject and methodology knowledge, providing support and mentoring to ensure implementation. We obviously want to ensure impact on learners. 

 How are we to deal with these out of control factors affecting child’s performance?

Is it our responsibility?

What are we to do?

Thoughts? Please share your thoughts, suggestions and experiences.

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One Response

  1. This is an interesting and tragic topic. I can’t help but think that it is our issue: fellow humans in distress and being abused should be something we all take seriously, but even more immediately, if a child is being abused and neglected then s/he is learning patterns of behaviour and abuse that s/he will play out in the future: these are the transactions that this child will see as being an appropriate way of being. What kind of husband/ wife, mother/father or employer/employee will they make? How will they understand about ethical, humane, empathetic human relationships? If violence and exploitation is the model they have come from, how will they be able to change this – what role models will they be able to use to see that there are other ways of doing things?

    Of course education is the only way of changing this – and education, for me, is about so much more than a curriculum; content-rich subjects. Obviously children need this, but in the context of a principle-based education.

    What vexes the issue even more though, is the role models offered these children: party leaders who are rapists and have charges of corruption and other wrong-doing which are brushed aside. Leaders who sing about guns and klling as a way of attracting a following. We, educators, have a big job to do – and we need to start with parents and teachers because if we cannot get principled-based education right, our country will sink under the waves of ignorance, brutalisation, poverty, exploitation and tragically flawed leadership role-models.

    We have to take this more seriously than anything else in our country, in my opinion. I cannot understant, for example, the huge emphasis on BEE when the real future lies in education – and things are going so badly wrong there.

    It makes one want to weep!

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