It is up to us

Johann Kikillus, Ocean View

Every year at the beginning of August, Soteria and Ocean View Care Centre start picking up the pieces of the June holidays.

The problem in Cape Town is that due to the wet and cold weather, most people choose to stay indoors. Sadly for thousands of children and teenagers, that means spending three weeks locked up with adults who are irresponsible and, in some cases, are a danger to the child.

Over the past five years, I have noted an increase in sexual and physical abuse during the winter holidays.

Often this is done by an older perpetrator, but over the past two years, we have seen more and more young children hurting each other.

It is becoming more common to have children as young as 5 sexually abusing their peers or younger children.

With many of these cases, the children who inflict harm on other children are themselves being sexually abused – often by an older person.

They also act out what they witness on TV or in real life. Parents need to be mindful of what they do in front of their children.

My biggest concern is that our justice system is not properly equipped to deal with the increase in sexual abuse against minors.

Many victims have tried going for help and found themselves more traumatised. As a result, they simply give up.

Sadly the far south, despite having over
100 000 residents, is not equipped to deal with such abuse.

For many years, I have been asking for a Thuthuzela Care Centre such as the one in Heideveld .

Added to the problems of June holidays is the fact that many bored youth begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol. This is, in turn, leads to a whole range of problems, but very concerning is the fact that when the third school term begins, we see an increase in school drop-outs – especially Grade 9s.

One of the Western Cape’s biggest problems is the fact that more than half of school pupils entering Grade 8 will not complete Grade 12. This number increases in areas with poor schooling and a gang presence.

Obviously the biggest long-term issue is that quite a large number of youth are uneducated and therefore unemployable.

So we see an increase in gang recruitment and teenage pregnancy as a means to get an income.

I have also noted an increase in teenage depression and suicidal tendencies.

Lastly, while I mentioned that due to the cold weather that most children stay indoors, on the few days that the rain stops, there are very few parks and other places where children can play safely.

Recently a number of children have been robbed of their bicycles and skateboards.

I raise all these points because it is up to adults to ensure that their children are safe. We cannot afford to take our eyes off our children anymore. Sadly we live in an age where it is often people that we know and trust that end up raping or molesting our children.

As adults we have to be aware of where our children are at all times. We have to understand that the pressure on teenagers is enormous, especially those living in gang-infested communities.

As adults, it is up to us to take back our parks and recreation areas. The police, law enforcement and community police forums must prioritise this.

Every community hall should be full with programmes for all ages every day of the holiday. NGOs and religious organisations must be given access to all available properties and resources.

An eye needs to be kept looking out daily for signs of abuse and drug use. If abuse is even suspected, then it is up to adults to take action immediately.

Please could all communities across the far south double their efforts in keeping all children and teenagers safe over the next month.