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Parents are the primary teachers of children’s rights

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Play can be a useful tactic in teaching children about their rights but, above all, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) believes parents must walk the talk when it comes to the rights that they teach their children.

The SAHRC’s Child Rights Commissioner Angie Makwetla said it is important to showcase how rights should be respected. This includes parents respecting each other’s rights, parents respecting their children’s rights and parents respecting the rights of the people around them.

Makwetla said that while parents have the primary task of ensuring that children are informed of their rights, government plays a vital role too. “Parents have the responsibility to know their children’s rights, fight for their children’s rights and educate them about their rights” .

Government’s commitment to upholding the rights of children is demonstrated by the number of state entities mandated with this responsibility, including the SAHRC, which was established in terms of Chapter Nine of the Constitution. Children’s rights is one its focus areas. Other government organisations, including the Department of Education, are also mandated to educate society on human rights and children in particular on their rights, she said.

Makwetla said parents can teach children their rights through play. “This could be forming them into a song, acting them out in a drama, drawing out lessons from a real-life situation or through a board game,” she said.

It is essential that parents be on the lookout for signs that their children’s rights are infringed upon. She said some of the signs are: moodiness, excessive worry, weepiness, pain during urination or bowel movements, unexplained injuries and bed or clothes wetting or soiling.

Makwetla advised parents to read the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. “The Charter has been signed and ratified by South Africa and highlights the responsibilities of children”.  

According to the Constitution of South Africa, children have the right to;

  • Dignity
  • Education
  • Family care or parental care or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment.
  • Be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.