The Children’s Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development, is receiving huge support from parents and operators of early childhood development (ECD) centres in the North West Province.

The committee is conducting public hearings on the Bill and on this weekend, it met with the communities of Bojanala District and Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati district municipalities to gather their views on the draft legislation. A majority of the residents who attended the public hearings on the Bill are hopeful that, once passed into law, it will remove existing hurdles in the documentation of orphans and children born to foreign nationals.

Among other things, the Bill seeks to resolve challenges relating to foster care grant payments, parental responsibilities among unmarried parents, child marriages, children born to foreign parents and unaccompanied migrant children.

During the public hearings, the committee heard that a significant number of children born to foreign nationals as well as South African children whose parents have died do not have birth certificates. As a result, these children miss out on benefiting from government social programmes, such as the child support grant and the ECD programme.

Committee Chairperson Ms Nonkosi Mvana said the issue of undocumented children is a serious concern. She recommended that the departments of Social Development, Home Affairs and Education work together to find solution. “This means that all these children without documents are missing out on government social programmes, such as the child support grant and foster care grants. It’s unfair on the children; we need to find solutions urgently,” she said.

In supporting the Children’s Amendment Bill, members of the public told the committee that they hoped that once the Bill becomes law it will ease the challenges experienced by foster parents when trying to get documentation for adopted orphans and also make it easier for children of foreigners to get documents.

Operators of ECD centres told the committee that the issue of undocumented children is a serious problem in the district, as they are not allowed to enrol children without documentation. Mr Olebogeng Mataboge, a community leader from Bojanala, said: “These schools say they have been warned that if they enrolled children without birth certificates and any other form of identification, they would be committing a crime. You find that the parents are dead and the living relatives face so many hurdles when trying to get the children registered. We hope this Bill will make the process easy,” he said.

Another resident, Mr Tshepo Morolong, in support of the Bill, proposed the strengthening of measures to guard against the abuse of child and foster care grants.

Ms Mvana said the legislation will also help in the fight against child trafficking and address cultural practices such as child marriages.

The committee will conclude its public hearings in the province in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, in the town of Wolmaranstad. More public hearings will be held in other provinces after the constituency period.

Sakhile Mokoena
13 September 2021