Who speaks for the children and youth in the 2020 municipal election race?
In a series of short articles I will try to set out my priorities for the upcoming election. I want to start firstly by outlining some practical measures that I believe can benefit the most vulnerable and under-represented group in our community, the child-residents.
My over-arching ambition is to ensure that Swakopmund becomes a city that is organised for the protection and welfare of all children. We must aim to make our city a place that is not only safe and conducive for children’s well-being and happiness, but that is specifically designed for that purpose.
The Children’s Charter
If elected to lead the Council, our group of worker and community leaders will set out to develop a Children’s Charter in which the municipality sets out its vision and duty of care towards all child-residents.
We would appoint a Children’s Advocate from the elected councilors to lead this process, who will hold principal responsibility in the Council for advancing the interests of children within the municipal authority. The Children’s Advocate should also spearhead the anti-bullying campaign.
Two meals a day at school
Council must lead on the implementation of a number of practical and preemptive measures to reduce the known risks to children, and to combat malnutrition through a multi-pronged strategy to ensure that no child goes hungry or is placed at undue risk within this jurisdiction.
Council and the schools in its jurisdiction should pioneer and drive an ambitious city-wide scheme for two-meals a day for every child at school.
No Child Should Be Hungry at School
To this end, the municipality should support the establishment of school gardening sites, school kitchens and dining halls as part of the citywide campaign to ensure that each learner benefits from two meals a day at school (at break-time and lunch).
Reduce child stunting to zero
One of our principal and foremost objectives must be to reduce malnutrition and stunting in children to zero. Therefore, under my plan we would employ child health inspectors to monitor child nutritional health and find ways to provide nutritional support at kindergarten level to detect and counter the early indicators of food deprivation.
Key to this will be the extension of sanitation and suitable water services to all households, as well as the removal of all charges at public toilets that may prevent children from accessing toilet or sanitation facilities. This will include monitoring and upgrading of school washing and toilet facilities, as needed.
Protecting children at risk
One key priority for the new Council must be to reduce the chronic risk of violence to children. The old German Fortress — now used as the Youth Hostel — could easily be transformed into a place of safety, support and refuge for children (and women) at risk of violence and neglect, or who are otherwise destitute.
The Children’s Fortress would offer accommodation, support facilities and care services for children at risk. Council should further support the setting up of an emergency helpline and counseling service as an extension of Youth Support Services.
Early Childhood Development Support
To address the Early Childhood Development (ECD) needs of pre-school children and to support working parents, we should establish 20 new publicly-funded kindergartens for children within their local communities, using the existing infrastructure of large church premises and other suitable places.
These churchyards and premises need only to be child-proofed and renovated to safely accommodate pre-school children during the week.
The main cost of the ECD program would be the labour of the child care workers, which would be shared by the council and parents.
Kids’ Stuff Recycle Centre
Council should further facilitate the setting up of a non-profit Kids Clothing, Books and Toy Recycle Centre to provide affordable second-hand clothes to the poor and help fund some of the above-mentioned operations.
A Cycle-Safe City
As to the specific needs of school-going children, we should undertake to make Swakopmund a Cycle Safe City with dedicated and demarcated cycle lanes that prioritise bicycle access and children’s right of way on the transport network.
Extend city-wide internet coverage
Where necessary, we should extend municipally-funded Wi-Fi services to deprived areas, to learning centres and to public hotspots.
Equal access for all
Council should prioritise equal and affordable access to sport facilities for all children, including affordable or free access to public swimming pools, sport halls and gyms.
To assist youth after school hours we should increase the number youth support workers and programs for after-school study and sport centres.
A new community college
To ensure that school leavers can get a quality education here within their local community and in the conducive environment of our town the new Council should lay the foundation in the next period for a vocational college and or fully fledged university at the coast, as this would hold many benefits for the local youth community, for the economy, and culture of the city.
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