Is PMB a child-friendly city?

2015-08-26 06:00

Child Friendly City

PHOTO:supplied Child Friendly City

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CHILDREN in Pietermaritzburg want access to safe play areas, safer public transport, access to libraries and want an adult they can feel safe to confide in.

These were just some of the main findings that emerged from the recent research study conducted by the Msunduzi Innovation and Development Institute (Midi).

The study, which began in September 2014, was conducted in 32 of the 37 wards in the Msunduzi municipality. Over 900 surveys were completed by pupils in 88 primary, high and special­-need schools. This ensured that there was a good representation of all children and thus the findings would lead to a universal voice.

Midi project manager Irene Dugmore said that the research project was eye-opening.

“The issues these children deal with on a daily basis prove that we need to ensure we create an environment suitable for them.”

Research showed that 50% of children and youth have the time and access to spaces to play however, many of these are not accessible to children with disabilities and some of the areas are not as safe as they should be. Children and youth participation in projects is non-existent at all levels, community, government and schools. Many of them know their rights only through TV and radio.

One of the highest concerns for children is their safety in all areas be it school, play or transport.

Most of the children make use of the public transport system and lift clubs and over half expressed concern in this regard, including driver’s substance abuse and disobeying the rules of the road.

One of the positive sections in the report is regarding child and youth health because when they are sick they know where to get help from. However, one of their biggest concerns is the state of Msunduzi’s public toilets and showed signs of disgust and disbelief at the conditions.

Poor conditions of toilets in some schools was also a concern.

The overall findings, in terms of education, was good however, children and the youth said they are served poor quality food at tuck shops and do not have access to libraries.

The safety of children was part of the study that was kept private and children were not allowed access to each other’s answers. The greatest concern for the majority of children was being bullied, gangs and armed groups, getting kidnapped and being a victim of violence and abuse.

“A child-friendly city is identified as a city which promotes children’s rights and calls for their active participation in communities. Additionally children are given a platform for their voices to be heard,” says the report. Midi has a 10-year plan to transform Pietermaritzburg into a child-friendly city. The National Lotteries Board Arts, Culture and Heritage Section has funded three years of this transformation.

“We have the findings and listened to what the children and youth had to say. We are hoping to follow through and develop pockets of interventions to assist the children. It’s all about partnerships and working together,” said Dugmore.

To be a part of making this city child-friendly, contact the Midi offices­ at 33 Alan Paton Avenue, phone 033 342 8266 or attend the next stakeholders meeting on 15 September.

The 10 main findings in the research:

Find 1: More than half showed concerns over the lack of access to “play” facilities (which includes sports grounds, open spaces and parks) to children and youth with physical disabilities.

Finding 2: 40% do not help with projects to change their community because they were not included or made aware of projects of change.

Finding 3: 70% were never asked their opinions regarding their life or community from the government (this includes youth representatives, ward councillors and the mayor) and were not included in decision-making in schools.

Finding 4: Feel unsafe using public transport.

Finding 5: Sometimes feel unsafe while walking-cycling in their communities because of illegal taverns, drug houses, brothels and gangs.

Finding 6: Almost 50% stated that there are no public toilets that are safe to use.

Finding 7: Do not feel safe from being bullied by other children (65%), protected from gangs or armed groups (74.8%), protected from being taken away by a stranger (77.5%), and safe from violence and verbal, physical or sexual­ abuse (67.1%).

Finding 8: Half do not have access to a library either in their community or school. It was found that in some schools libraries did not exist or were not open for use by pupils (25%).

Finding 9: 44% do not have an adult in the schools environment with whom they feel safe to talk about their problems and feelings to.

Finding 10: More than half are always or sometimes disciplined by being physically hurt in school

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