Is South Africa the most dangerous place in the world to raise your children?

Hanlie Smuts -- Tue, 04/26/2016 - 10:51

Is South Africa the most dangerous place in the world to raise your children?

Prof Elda de Waal, professor in Education Law at the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal) recently spoke out about a report from the United Nations (UN) which points to South Africa as being one of the most dangerous countries in the world for raising kids between the ages of five and 14.

Prof De Waal was part of a panel of experts discussing this report on the actuality programme “Praat Saam” on the SABC radio station RSG.  

Mr Elijah Mahlangu, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, also took part in the discussion with Prof De Waal.  He did not recognise the legitimacy of the report and says that even though there have been serious  incidents in schools, there is no way that South Africa can lie at the bottom of this list, below countries such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Prof De Waal commented that the report refers to children between the age of five and 14, which broadly indicates the school going age of minors. Even though these children are already facing challenges on the way to school and at school, this report does not necessarily refer to the circumstances at schools. 

Above:  Prof Elda de Waal

She elaborates that some children are exposed to danger on the way to school already and that children find themselves in situations where they get implicated in criminal activities involuntarily. The report also refers to smaller weapons being found in the possession of children at schools. Most school going children who fall in this age group in our country, are not raised in ideal and safe circumstances. It can therefore be determined that their right to basic education is in serious jeopardy. 

Schools have a definite role to play in lowering these frightening numbers.” This according to Prof De Vaal when she says it is the responsibility of our schools to take a stand and ensure that there are measures in place to make our schools safer places for children. She says that the Law on Schools provides for preventative action to be taken in this regard. The law must merely be applied. Prof De Waal uses the example of social media and the challenges that this part of cell phone usage can hold for schools: “When a fellow learner gets involved in a fight these days, learners will rather record the incident than go and get help.” She points out that many schools in South Africa still does not have a cell phone policy in place for learners (and also teachers). Schools must take a firm stand for our children and speak out against bullying, gangs and the abuse of technology.

Prof De Waal also feels that the problem will only be properly addressed when teachers can enjoy the proper respect and standing in the class room. Caregivers must think positively about educators and speak with the necessary discretion when they talk about teachers at home. Even though parents and learners have been breaking down the image of the teacher for a significant time now, teachers also have a very important role to play in establishing a proper status for themselves. “Today I am your Facebook friend and tomorrow I want you to respect me in the class room again. It doesn’t work like that,” says Prof De Waal. “To enjoy suitable respect and standing in class, every teacher must draw the line him/herself.”

More about the expert

Prof De Waal is widely known for her insight in education and more specifically the law around it. She is regularly approached by the media for her opinion in this regard. The interview mentioned above was already her third on RSG for the year thus far. She has been with the NWU since 2001. She was awarded her PhD in Education Law in 2001. In 2015 she was chosen as the New Voice of the NWU.