Elita Chikwati Herald Reporter
Special courts to handle cases of child abuse are being set up as Government intensifies efforts to eliminate child marriages and other harmful practices against children, President Mnangagwa has said.
Officially launching the 29th Junior Parliament Session and the Revised National Youth Policy at State House yesterday, the President said Government was committed to ensuring that justice was delivered for children who have been violated.
“Stand-alone children friendly courts are being set up within our main court systems. The fight against child abuse, child marriages and other harmful practices is being scaled up with perpetrators of crime against children receiving deterrent penalties and sentences,” he said.
The belated launch comes as organisations have applauded Government for ensuring inclusivity of the young and those with disabilities in influential positions like the Junior Parliament, boards and commissions.
Traditionally, the official opening of the Junior Parliament coincides with the celebration of the Day of the African Child on June 16 of each year.
The occasion was however deferred due to Covid-19.
At the official opening, junior parliamentarians were given the platform to share their experiences, ideas, views and aspirations.
The junior parliamentarians commended efforts by Government to address challenges being faced by children and youths and the launching of the National Disability Policy.
They also expressed concern over the increase in child marriages, drug and substance abuse, inaccessibility of online education to some in remote areas and lack of financial support.
President Mnangagwa said Government had made great strides towards achieving the bulk of the targets towards an “Africa Fit for Children”.
“The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child — ‘30 years after the adoption of the charter Accelerate the Implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa Fit for Children’ — allows us to reflect on progress with regards to enhancing the socio economic and cultural space for our children.
“This is in line with the aspirations of the 2016 African charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Framework. Relevant and appropriate education skills development and empowerment initiatives for adolescent and young people remain a priority,” he said.
Innovations in the education sector, he added, had resulted in the adoption of the Heritage Based Education 5.0.
The model focuses on empowering learners with the skills to produce goods and services which benefit society and the economy as a whole.
“In view of constraints brought about by the Covd-19 pandemic, multi-pronged strategies are being deployed to improve children’s access to education.
“These include the use of information and communication technologies and lessons broadcast over national radio stations,” said the President.
He said the crafting of the National Youth Service Bill and the Youth Bill provided for the promotion of moral uprightness, self-discipline, volunteerism and incorruptibility among the youths.
“This dovetails with Africa’s guiding philosophical principle of Ubuntu Unhu. It is part of our efforts to instil the values of community, patriotism, discipline, respect dignity, acceptance humanness, fairness and high moral standards among our children,” he said.
The National Youth Forum and the Parliamentary Youth Caucus were some of the platforms recently created to give senior MPs the opportunity to support youth issues.
“This forum will further ensure a more thorough insight of issues through the lenses of the young people themselves,” he said.
Government, said President Mnangagwa, was also working towards establishing vocational training centres in every district to impart important practical and market-demanded skills to young people.
UNICEF country representative, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale commended Government for upholding children’s rights and making child welfare and protection issues of concern.
He lauded the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Junior Parliament soon after the launch of the Disability Policy.
“We are listening to our children understanding the reason behind the launch of the Disability Policy. We are closing the year on another milestone which shows commitment of Government to the agenda of children. This is evident from the enabling environment you have created to advance rights of children,” he said.
Junior President, Hazel Mandaza, a 17-year-old Lower Six student at Mahusekwa High School called for a society that is inclusive of people living with disabilities.
“As a person with a disability you have dared to unchain me, you have dared to be brave. It is time to have a vibrant robust law on disability,” she said.
Zimbabwe Youth Council Mrs Chiedza Juru commended ministers attending the launch for responding to issues that had been raised by the Junior Parliamentarians.
She also applauded Junior President Mandaza for articulating issues affecting young people that require the attention of Government.