The Sunday News
Harmony Agere, Harare Bureau
THE Government is refining legal instruments to eliminate harmful practices that affect children to enable the young to unlock their full potential and contribute to nation-building, President Mnangagwa has said.
He said accelerating the amendment of the Children’s Act, the tabling of the Child Justice Bill, the enactment of the National Youth Act and the National Youth Service Act are ongoing processes to protect the welfare of young people.
Speaking at the official opening of the 30th session of the Children’s Parliament in Harare yesterday, the President said the new instruments would result in the elimination of child marriages and child labour while ensuring that every child exercised his/her right to education. The session was held concurrently with commemorations of the Day of the African Child at Harare City Sports Centre.
“In this regard, we are speedily attending to the amendment of the Children’s Act with regards to outlawing child marriages, and providing a second chance to education facility for girls who prematurely leave school,” said President Mnangagwa.
The amendment also sought to provide for the criminalisation of employment of children, facilitate early family intervention, family preservation programmes as well as the delivery of quality services for children, among others.
“Furthermore, the tabling of the Child Justice Bill is being accelerated with a view to establish a friendly and effective justice system for those children in conflict and contact with the law. In addition, the enactment of the National Youth Act as well the National Youth Service Act to legislate on youth, empowerment, wealth creation, inclusive economic development and growth is high on our legislative agenda.”
President Mnangagwa said the Junior Parliament provided an opportunity to collectively consider the life of children and embrace their views, ideas and experiences towards charting a brighter and prosperous future for the nation.
“Today, we blend this Session of the Junior Parliament with commemorations of the Day of the African Child and to advance Africa’s 2040 agenda for children and young people. In so doing, we join the rest of Africa and other progressive organisations to honour and remember the young students from Soweto, killed in the 1976 uprisings. Theirs was a fight against the oppressive apartheid-inspired education system.
“Here in Zimbabwe, we also lost many of our young boys and girls to the minority Rhodesian oppressive system’s brutal attacks in their quest for independence, self-determination and democracy.”
President Mnangagwa implored the nation to never forget the gruesome experiences that many young people were subjected to during the colonial era and the struggle for Independence.
“As we recall such suffering and sacrifices of our young people, for the freedom we enjoy today, let us continue to nurture and spur our young boys and girls to remain custodians of our prosperous future and to drive Africa’s renaissance and ultimately a continent we want. In the context of leaving no one and no place behind, my administration remains committed to ensuring the implementation of responsive policies and programmes towards unlocking the full potential of young people to contribute to sustained efforts of nation-building.”
The Day of the African Child, which is this year running under the theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice since 2013” was reflective of the commitment by African Union Member States to get rid of harmful social and cultural practices affecting children.
“This, therefore, motivates us as Government and other stakeholders to reflect on and evaluate the programmes, projects and activities implemented to realise the desires of the African Child. At the behest of this August House, the Government commissioned a research to interrogate the various socio-cultural and structural practices affecting our children and young people.
As a listening administration, we have taken up the recommendations of the research to inform the formulation and implementation of appropriate and concrete measures to address challenges which may exist across all levels.”
The President exhorted Government ministries, departments and agencies to continue promoting public awareness and engagement programmes that advance the interests of children. This would protect the dignity, physical, psychological, integrity, development, participation, health, education and social status of children in communities.
The President commended the efforts of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Drugs and Substance Abuse set up to help the young people realise the dangers associated with drug and substance abuse.
To augment these efforts, President Mnangagwa said the establishment of functional, fully-equipped and modern multi-purpose Youth Recreational Centres and other facilities in communities across the country needed to be accelerated.
“I assure you our young people that my Government stands ready to support programmes and projects to ensure that you enjoy fulfilling lives with broad opportunities. In this technologically-driven society, we must adapt and develop along with the ongoing digital revolution. The pervasive digital ecosystem entails that the downside risks such as cyber-bullying, among other cyber threats, follow children and the youths everywhere. We must, therefore, continue to sharpen strategies which ensure that the use of new technologies advances problem-solving capabilities, innovation and inventions by young people.”
President Mnangagwa applauded Unicef and other development partners for complementing the Government in the rollout of multi-faceted development programmes. Furthermore, he called upon children and young people to always uphold the values embedded in the philosophy of Ubuntu/Hunhu and rich cultural heritage.
The nation needed to continue adhering to the public health regulations and protocols to protect lives as the country was still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.