The Western Cape Child Commissioner (WCCC) has promised to host workshops in the Greater Retreat area to address some of the concerns brought up at a meeting.
Earlier this month the commissioner Christina Nomdo visited the Square Hill Community Hall to meet with a few community workers and leaders of non-profit organisations.
The visit, called by the Greater Retreat Advice Office and the Cape Town Youth Cadets, was intended as a brainstorming session to find workable solutions to the issues faced by children of the Greater Retreat area, focusing specifically on safety and overall well-being.
The Greater Retreat area includes Steenberg, Lavender Hill, Hillview, Cafda Village, Cuba Heights, St Montague Village , Rondomtik and Seawinds Estate.
Organiser Aubrey Robinson said it was important for the commissioner to hear what some of the issues in these areas are. All of the areas mentioned have been affected by gang violence and several young children and teenagers have been shot dead.
“These are areas where children and young adults are caught up in shootings and killings, drugs, gender-based violence and other violences including rape, assault, trauma and misery on a daily basis.”
Those at the event were also informed how they could contact the commissioner.
Several issues were raised by stakeholders about the role the commissioner plays in ensuring the safety and well-being of children in the communities mentioned.
Mr Robinson said boys as young as 10 years old were being recruited by gangs as gunmen. “The question is what is being done about these things? We as organisations and community workers don’t know which way to turn anymore because the help needed for these children is not coming. We ourselves sometimes don’t know how to react when we see what is happening in the community.”
Adele Campbell from the Whicht Court Association in Lavender Hill agreed with Mr Robinson, saying that she felt even the education system was failing children.
“There are no interventions in our schools, children are falling through the cracks and we need help. Children are scared to go to school because of the shootings, there are young children dropping out. We were hoping this meeting was a step in the right direction and I hope we’ll be able to work towards trying to find ways to help our children.”
Ms Nomdo said her background as a community worker had exposed her to the realities children face in the Western Cape.
“I’m the first child commissioner for South Africa and the past two years I have been working with children, speaking to them one-on-one to listen to the problems they face. My aim as the child commissioner is to put them first and give them a voice.”
She said her role as child commissioner was also an oversight role and that she was there to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise, recommend and engage to assess the impact of government services, laws, and policies on children.
The commissioner has 50 advisers with whom she is in constant contact. Some of them are from Lavender Hill and Retreat.
Community worker Paul Phillips said decisions and engagements by offices such as that of the child commissioner didn’t translate at grassroots level.
“There are meetings like these where officials tick the boxes of having visited a specific area but there are no models, programmes or concepts that really address the needs of the people on the ground. So many things are promised and said but nothing comes of it,” he said.
“This must not just be a talkshop; we need real effort.”
Ms Nomdo responded that communities were more than welcome to contact her office to assist with sessions with children from the communities affected by the issues mentioned.
“I implore people to come forward and speak to us so that we can take up these issues and work together with those on the ground to ensure the safety and well-being of our children.”