Children’s Day Celebrations

Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Mrs Hazel Jenkins on the occasion of the Children’s Day celebrations, held on 17 November 2011 in Strydenburg

* Programme Director and Director General of the Northern Cape, Mr Justice Bekebeke
* Members of the Executive Council present
* Mayors and Councillors
* Our special guests and leaders of the future, namely all the children gathered here
* Members of the Strydenburg Community
* Invited Guests
* Ladies and Gentlemen

I extend warm greetings to all the children that are present here this morning. It is indeed wonderful to see all of you smiling and being so happy. We are very proud of you - our children. As you are all aware, we have converged at this venue to celebrate National Children’s Day – which is the most important day to highlight progress made towards the realisation of the rights of Children.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the Provincial government and as your elected public representatives, we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.

Children are our future and the flowers of our nation. As Mothers and Fathers we have nurtured you and watched you blossom in order that you realise your true potential. It is our responsibility as government and the people of South Africa to invest in the future of our children. We must work for the good health, education, equality and protection of every child in our country and indeed the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as a teacher by calling, the needs of children and families have been a priority for me throughout my career as an educator and as an elected public representative. It is therefore my considered view that every child will be the author of his or her own life story, will be able to fulfill his or her own potential, not bound by the confines of their family background, or of their parent’s job or wealth, or of other’s expectations. But society has an obligation to nurture them: especially in their homes and in schools.

In the words of our beloved Father of our Nation in the form of President Nelson Mandela “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children. The children must play in the open veld, no longer tortured by the pangs of hunger or ravaged by disease or threatened with the scourge of ignorance, molestations and abuse, and who are no longer required to engage in deeds whose gravity exceeds the demands of their tender years”.

It is for this reason Ladies and Gentlemen, that our government has committed itself to pursue a clear and tangible programme of action to improve the plight of our children which includes:

* Building early Childhood Development Centres, which promote an educational component in childcare;
* Creating child and family friendly parks in local municipalities which will provide safe spaces for children and their families to engage in sporting activities and general recreation;
* Building child friendly facilities in all municipalities in the province.
* Placing social workers in school districts to provide social support services to learners and help prevent instances of child abuse;
* Establishing safe houses and shelters in each community that will provide temporary but potentially life-saving support for abused people, particularly women and children;
* Enforcing by-laws that restrict the sale of alcohol close to schools and other places frequented by children and families, such as places of worship and recreational facilities;
* Increasing access to information and the arts;
* Extending the distribution of community libraries, including upgrading of existing libraries with new materials, information and communication (ICT) infrastructure and internet access; and
* Extending the provision and upgrading of community arts centres to enable children to practise and develop their skills in the fields of music, drama, crafts and general entertainment activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must respond in a meaningful and decisive manner to address the increasing problems and concerns of vulnerable children which include diseases such as HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis; poverty; hunger and malnutrition; social problems; disability among children and youth; and the growing problems of pregnancy among teenager girls and unemployment among the youth.

As a nation, we have an obligation to ensure that children grow up in a safe environment. The family, as the fundamental structure of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members, particularly children, should be afforded the necessary assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community.

Having said that, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is also our responsibility to inspire our children and encourage them to learn. The health, education and creative abilities of our children and young people will determine the well-being and strength of our Nation.

Education is the key to progress. It empowers the individual. It enables a nation. From enablement comes success. And success inculcates pride. Indeed, we are a special and proud nation as South Africans living in the great Rainbow Nation.

It is the belief of our ANC-led government that if we nurture our children and young people with the right education, South Africa’s future as a strong and prosperous country is secured. We are committed to ensuring that all children, irrespective of gender and social category, have access to education. An education that enables them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active and pro-active citizens of South Africa.

And no matter what our children want to do with their life – I guarantee that they will need a good education to do it. If they want to become a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer - If they want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military - You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. There is no other option. Please listen carefully children: For you to become successful in life, you MUST have a good education.

The success of any educational endeavour is based on the ability and motivation of teachers. The implementation of the Right to Education Programme is no exception. I call upon all our teachers across the province to become partners in this effort. It is also incumbent upon all of us to work together to improve the working conditions of our teachers and enable them to teach with dignity, giving full expression to their talent and creativity.

Programme Director, parents and guardians also have a critical role to play in school governing bodies responsible for the management of the school.

Good-luck in your examinations and I am sure you will all progress to the next grades. Remember that education is your future. Study hard, respect your teachers and parents and you will become great adults and will certainly change the world for the better.

In this regard, please allow me to read a poem by Rudyard Kipling entitled “If....”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

In conclusion, former President Nelson Mandela further remarked that there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.

 

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