The annual Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament made history when it elected a hearing impaired 17-year-old learner as its new Speaker.
Jean-Claude Smit, from De La Bat School for the Deaf in the Western Cape, was elected by majority vote to the position of Speaker and has already overseen his first Children’s Parliamentary session.
He said he was excited about the responsibility that has been given to him by his peers.
“I did not expect to be elected the Speaker of Parliament at my first attendance but now that I have been elected, I want to use this opportunity to show other children with disabilities that we are capable just like everyone else,” said Smit.
He said he also wants to use his term to promote discussions on improving the home environment for children.
“Many children are exposed to bad things in their homes, like abuse and parents who abuse drugs and alcohol. These children then bring their experiences to school leading to bullying, peer pressure and the formation of gangs in schools.
“We to need to find ways to improve the home environment because that is where most problems start,” explained Smit.
The Children’s Parliament aims to increase access to and the use of social services through direct intervention by building effective service delivery partnerships between government, communities and other role players.
Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini hailed Smit’s election as a progressive step in the advancement of the interests and rights of people with disabilities.