Marble Hall — Government is committed to creating opportunities for children to explore and develop their talents in sports, Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana told young people gathered at the National Children's Day celebrations at Malebitsa, Limpopo on Saturday.
"As government, we are committed to creating opportunities for children to explore and develop their talents. I am certain that in a few years' time, we will be able to produce winning Olympics or Paralympic teams which will set loose like predators to conquer the world," she said.
The department had invited professional coaches to assist in identifying youth talent and to help them to nurture and develop it.
"We will then follow you at your home and respective schools to ensure that you receive the necessary support that will enable you to reach your full potential," Xingwana told children gathered at the event.
The minister said this would be done through working together with provincial MEC's for Sports, Arts and Culture as well as Sports and Recreation Minister, Fikile Mbalula.
"We are determined to produce world- class stars such as Caster Semenya, Oscar Pistorius and Lucas Radebe who will be able to represent South Africa globally," she said.
Speaking to SAnews, senior manager of special programmes in the Limpopo Premier's Office, Selaelo Makgatho, who is also visually impaired, said children should not be restricted from participating in various sporting codes. "Children learn by playing, they need to be given as much space as possible to play."
He urged donors to work with government in contributing towards getting more sporting equipment. "Children today, especially those with disabilities, are still faced with the challenge of specific equipment in their sports."
National Children's Day takes place on the first Saturday of November every year. It is used as a platform to raise awareness and mobilise all sectors of society to redouble their collective efforts to promote and protect children's rights.
The day seeks to inculcate a culture of caring and protecting children and to give concrete expression to the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. It is further used to encourage civil society and other partners to work with government to protect children's rights.
The minister expressed concern at the safety and security of the children in the country. "One of the greatest challenges facing our country is the scourge of violence against children," she said, adding that as long as children are still attacked, raped and killed, government will do everything possible to take steps to ensure that children are safe and secured.
Xingwana urged the nation to pledge its support to working towards the protection, promotion and fulfillment of the rights of the children.
"We must continue to build a South Africa where our children feel safe and secured. Our children need to access to social, health, educational and recreational services," she said.
With regards to children with disabilities, the minister said they should be able to access all services in a barrier-free environment. "They need to be given a platform to air their views and be listened to in line with their maturity level and age."
Acting Limpopo Premier Pitsi Moloto said the provincial government's message for National Children's Day to the children of Limpopo and the country was "the future is yours, so you must make good choices to have a bright future".
"All of us as South Africans, let's believe that each one of us can make a difference, despite the challenge we are facing at our homes as children, we must never give up."
Children's Right's Ambassador, Gabalatshwane Gumede, 17, from Rustenburg said children should use the day to learn from other people's past experience.
"Young people fall into thinking that education is just a waste of time and once they develop that mentality, they go out to drink alcohol and sometimes fall pregnant at a tender age throwing them into parenthood.
"While it is never too late to snap out of the bad things that one is going through, children need to make sure that they neglect all the bad elements that come with life," she said.
Gumede, who lost her parents to Aids, is South Africa's Ambassador for the Children's World Organisation and the World Children's Prize Children's Rights (WCPRC).
The WCPRC is the world largest educational programme on children's rights, democracy, and respect for environment, people and cultures.