Botswana: Govt Addresses Child Care, Protection Gaps

Gaborone — Government acknowledges inadequacies in addressing children's needs and their protection, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Setlhabelo Modukanele has said.

Officiating at this year's World Children's Day commemoration in Gaborone on November 19, he said government and its partners had therefore taken measures such as establishing toll free lines for reporting abuse and gender-based violence (GBV).

Local authorities also maintained such lines for any other municipal service related concerns, including family distress, he said.

Mr Modukanele said this against the backdrop of increasing cases of violence, abuse, as well as compromised access to services due to COVID-19.

"Many children could not access education due to unavailability of alternative platforms of learning; compromised access to protective services especially in instances of abuse at home, reduced access to basics like food when caregivers had to stay home and many other factors," stated Mr Modukanele.

He said government had provided psychosocial support services that had been extended to COVID-19 quarantine centres, with special consideration for children under 10 years.

Efforts had also been made to facilitate pupils' access to school work through, among other things, bridging the digital divide.

Other initiatives to foster care and protection of children, Mr Modukanele said, included establishment of child friendly police stations with effect from April 2021 to promote reporting of GBV cases.

"This will go a long way in facilitating the commencement of the justice continuum," he stated.

Meanwhile UNICEF country representative, Dr Joan Matji said the theme "A Day to Reimagine the Future" was well thought of.

She said the day was meant to reflect on children's future and to help them develop to their full potential.

Dr Matji said when Botswana ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, it was an agreement that the country's children would be active participants in all that determined their future.

Dr Matji noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the lives of children.

"Many of you have witnessed the disruptions caused by the pandemic and associated containment measures such as restrictions on movement and closure of schools, social services and support, food insecurity and social isolation," she said.

The disruptions, she said, exacerbated already existing disparities.

Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development deputy permanent secretary, Ms Onalenna Sechele said the day was about children as stakeholders because they were some of the world's worst violated victims.

When disasters struck, children were the most affected because of their vulnerability and dependence on action of adults, she said.

She said promotion of child participation and enhancing efforts towards child programming was a step in the right direction.

For their part, children stated that planning for them without their input was tantamount to working against them.

They further called on government to step up efforts to roll out e-learning to ensure there was no disruption of education in the event there was a pandemic such as the current one.

Source : BOPA

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