Children's lives cut short; the cycle continues.

2013-10-16 21:48

It’s nothing new. It has happened before. The sad fact is that we seem to be getting used to this heartbreaking crime and we seem to be lacking in adopting a collective or nation persuasion to turn the tide around. Children in this country are dying daily due to our violent psyche; their bodies are broken and raped, their lives cut short and they are left dead to rot in the far-off fields of our nation’s indifference

Recently, headlines have been marking the recent deaths of two girls, aged two and three, who were found dead in a toilet cubicle in Diepsloot , after they were reported missing for 3 days by their parents.  As much as this was a major story, it wasn’t anything new or surprising if one understands the reoccurring themes and stories in our news. Toddler killings are becoming commonplace in South Africa’s modern life. Just a month ago, another innocent toddler was found dead in the same community of Diepsloot.  So once the headlines hit the papers we make a noise; government officials start forging statements of an outcry, columnists and bloggers state their disapproval and news broadcasters are now milking the story until we learn to forget once again.

However, the challenge comes when the cameras are off and the media has moved on to the next news agenda. We sit with a big problem in our hands. It would be more criminal to pretend otherwise.  Our crime statistics show our bad track record in protecting our children and our efforts to turn things around seem futile. The 2011/2012 statistics recorded that more than two children were being murdered every day. The numbers revealed a tragic reflection in the numbers when you look at the age break downs between 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012;  as close to 800 children were slain and another 758 minors fell victim to attempted murder.

We have many stories of children’s lives cut short, most of them a backdrop and quickly dismissed as “another” one of the many tales that form a big part of the problem. Well, if I am wrong, do you remember Sello Chokoe? Well, probably not. However, let me remind you. He was the ten year old whose body parts were harvested, his penis chopped off and his hands and ear used for muthi. The young boy’s body was found mutilated in a distant veld in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province.

This was 2004. However, fast-tracking to 2009, this problem still persisted, as it was estimated that there were over one thousand child homicides in the country. This was summed up in a paper by the South African Medical Research Council which highlighted that three children were dying a day in the country. What is startling in this report, released last year, is that a quarter of girls died from abandonment and “a similar proportion were strangled or asphyxiated”. The report also highlighted that girls were more likely to be abandoned than boys and revealed the most common cause of death for boys was from stabbing. Another reason being that, one in ten of the children were shot dead. Ten percent of the child homicides in this time period were due to rape and sexual assault.

We can blame policing for such murders as much as we want to, but that argument is not going to take us very far when we are focusing on how to protect children. This is a social problem that requires a collective response from improving parental skills to strengthening social welfare measures that help to respond to child abuse. Another response to help change the situation would be increasing the number of social workers that deal with issues that pertain to violence and conflict in families and communities. Experts also recommend a strengthening of programmes for children who may display anti-social behaviour, especially those who bully or display delinquent behaviour. This can help prevent teenage male homicide caused by boys fighting with knives.

Sometimes, the solutions are communal. When one sees an estranged child one has to make an enquiry. Parents have no choice but have to play the central role in protecting their children. Ensure that your children are in sight and when they are not make sure they have supervision from elders which you trust. It is also as simple as teaching your child the “don’t trust a stranger” tale, because this simple lesson teaches the child caution in public and private spaces.

The lessons of dealing with child killings are still unlearnt. So many children’s voices remain silenced; their futures halted, their breaths stolen and their bones broken. This can be reversed. It requires us to pay attention to the presence of the children around us. We need to watch their behaviour and caution our own in how we treat them. Let us look beyond our own children, care about those of others. It's time we start by weeping for the state of affairs; a violent countries maiming our innocent and disfiguring the blameless.

Do you think we can turn the tide of this problem of child killings? Tweet me @jazz2ben. Would love to hear your thoughts

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