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SA's democracy guilty of neglecting its vulnerable young

FILE PICTURE: A worker passes hundreds of South African flags lining routes in and out of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport.
FILE PICTURE: A worker passes hundreds of South African flags lining routes in and out of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport.
Image: Halden Krog © The Times

EVERY child remembers its childhood with fondness. A mother's loving eyes watching over it, in sleep and wakefulness, never escapes memory.

The raging battle to make the world to care is not for children to fight. That is a burden of every adult to wage. Parents should shoulder the battle with dutiful commitment in defence of children's innocence. Innocence should never be left to fend for itself. Only when innocence has reached maturity age, should it be deemed fit to face the world to inherit duty to care for its offspring.

This duty to care points to the natural order of things not to be tempered with, generation after generation. Otherwise, how else would a hope for a wonderful world be sustained?

With that dream world in mind so do grown-ups remember childhood with a flicker of innocence gone by. Truth is childhood has been good to some and bad to others. Good childhood is remembered with a smile, and the bad one, is never without a tear. Between a smile and a tear, childhood is a struggle to live. But touched by nurturing hands children are likely to find life a song worth singing. Those left at the mercy of a cruel world, bound to curse life as a living hell.

Some children live through smile and tear of life to tell a tale of triumph either through the enduring care of those that gave them birth or self-taught fortitude of unbreakable spirit. Others hardly grow to be known. The tragic end of Michael Komape's life is a case in point. If South Africa still has a heart to speak of, the choking lasting hours of six-year old Komane, found dead in a school pit toilet, is a cause for unspeakable societal shame.

Is this the best childhood that our 23 year old democracy can afford to give? Michael was a Grade R learner at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng outside Polokwane, Limpopo. During break on Monday morning of January 20, he waded through the tall grass to the doorless pit toilets. That was the last he was seen alive.

Could it be that the tragic end of little Michael is of no society's concern? Culpability for the loss of a life cut short so soon should not be allowed to be the sole burden of the poor Komape family either.  Nor should the accusing finger solely point at the school.  The death of Michael is a writing on the wall of our democracy to take stock of vulnerable conditions faced by its young.

A society neglecting the writing on its walls often has nothing left to read in the debris of its collapsed structures. The death of Michael speaks to a society gradually losing a heart for its children as dispensable passing statistics. The measure of a democracy is not the number of years lived but determined elimination of conditions placing its young in harms' way.

Does ours have a heart to celebrate childhood, or, remains a cold-blooded fantasy digging graves to bury those for whom safe life remains unaffordable to buy?

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