SA faces declining enrollment in early learning programmes
According to the state of South African children report released on Monday by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in partnership with Delloite Africa, violent crimes against children have declined, from 50,688 in 2016 to 39,878 in 2021, the report argues that this number should not exist.
Children encounter widespread educational challenges, spanning from declining attendance at Early Childhood Development (ECD) to substantial dropout rates and high youth unemployment.
According to the report, for every one teacher there’s 10 children.
In 2019, 84% of kids faced corporal punishment, emphasising need for alternative discipline methods.
Despite substantial government spending on basic education, SA faces declining enrollment in Early Learning Programmes (ELPs), with a 15% drop post-Covid-19. The challenges include job losses, limited awareness of ECDs’ impact and reopening delays.
I had this oneMpho Masienyane-Khauoe
child in my office,
no older than 17
years, who came
up to me and told
me that she would
rather have HIV
than to be hungry
FOUNDER OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION LINTLE COMMUNIT Y AWAKENING
The SA education system faces challenges evident in poor learning outcomes, particularly in Grade 3 and Grade 4 reading results with 78% unable to make inferences and 82% unable to read for meaning. High youth unemployment at 63.9% demands interventions in education and career guidance. The education system grapples with teacher capacity, skewed assessments, limited university capacity and challenges in matching skills to the job market.
1 out of 5 children are victims of sexual abuse
Violence against children occurs in numerous settings ranging from sexual violence, youth and gang violence, corporal punishment and dating partner violence. Often, children are faced with this violence even before birth through their mothers due to intimate partner violence.
From 2009 to 2019, the percentage of children experiencing violence, including corporal punishment, was reduced by more than 50%. However, in 2019, 84% of abused children faced corporal punishment, emphasising the need for awareness about alternative discipline methods.
Since February, the state has reported over 17,000 cases of child abuse and neglect. The Western Cape accounts for the highest number of cases at 40%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, both at 18%, while the rest of the country comprises 24% of the reported cases.
One out of five children are victims of sexual abuse in SA. One third of children in SA are at risk of online violence, exploitation and abuse. More than three children were murdered daily in SA over a 90-day period between October and December last year.
Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund CEO Linda Ncube-Nkomo said the numbers reflect the small portion of the challenges experienced by children in the country.
“The numbers in this report are dire to hear but these are the figures that are reported by people or the state and calculated we know there’s more beyond the numbers, not every case is reported or talked about and those real numbers are really devastating to think about.”
Ncube-Nkomo said there was a need for change.
“We are at war with children. If we don’t do anything about the challenges that children are going through then we become complicit in these challenges and we are no different than those harming these children.”
4.8-million children live below poverty line
The highest multi-dimensional poverty rates were reported in Limpopo at about 80%. Gauteng and Western Cape recorded 33.6% and 37.1%, respectively.
62.1% of SA children between the ages of 0-17 years old are multidimensionally poor, which is almost 2 times more than that of non-poor children. A key driving factor for multidimensional poverty among all age groups is the poor state of social infrastructure.
Larger households, with seven or more members, exhibit higher poverty rates, surpassing 50%. Black African-headed households and those led by females face elevated poverty and multi-dimensional deprivation rates, emphasising the importance of equitable access to education and employment opportunities nationwide.
Non-governmental organisation Lintle Community Awakening (LCA) founder Mpho Masienyane-Khauoe said she often heard of children who are stuck in so much poverty that they often have taken on the burden of finding means to survive.
“I had this one child in my office, no older than 17 years, who came up to me and told me that she would rather have HIV than to be hungry. That she would rather have a sugar daddy than be poor and end up getting pregnant by this man than to avoid poverty,” said Masienyane-Khauoe.
Child mortality surges
According to the state of South African children report, child mortality has surged. In 2021, infant and under five mortality rates increased to 24.1 and 32.8 per 1,000 births, respectively, compared to 2020 figures of 21 and 28 per 1,000.
It found that the cause of this was malnutrition as well as the lack of immunisation and access to immediate medical services and healthcare which have not changed over the past seven years.
The study found that Covid-19 further exacerbated challenges, particularly in rural areas such as Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape, which witnessed elevated mortality rates. A concerning finding reveals that one in five kids suffers from stunted growth due to malnutrition, with 10% facing hunger in 2020 alone.
Teenage pregnancy rates have remained stable since 2013, with 90,037 girls aged 10-19 giving birth between March 2021 and April 2022. While overall, HIV prevalence rates are declining, SA ranks fourth globally, with over 19% living with HIV. Approximately 270,000 children (0-14 years) were living with HIV in 2021, witnessing 10,000 new infections compared to the 2007 peak of 63,000.
Additionally, the report emphasises the neglect of child and adolescent mental health in SA, with 1 in 7 children having untreated mental health conditions persisting into adulthood. The scarcity of specialists, with only about 30 child and adolescent psychiatrists, exacerbates this issue, as these specialists are primarily in private facilities inaccessible to the indigent population.
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