By Jonk wa Mashamba
Members of the 10th Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament elected their Speaker and President ahead of their seating in Johannesburg tomorrow, 8 October 2021.
A grade 9 and deaf learner from Dominican School for The Deaf in Cape Town, Hamza Muhammad (16) was elected as the President of the Parliament.
Given Mashika (17), a grade 10 learner from Musa Secondary School in Mpumalanga, was elected as the Speaker.
After accepting the election for the Presidency, Hamza said he would make sure that the rights of children, especially disabled children were put on the country’s agenda.
Just before being elected, speaking through his sign language interpreter, Hamza shared with his fellow honourable members that he would like to see more support for parents who have disabled children.
He said parents with disabled children opted to take their children to boarding schools because they were not equipped to look after their disabled children.
“We want them to touch us and love us, but they sometimes do not know how to look after their children. And this is an area Government should look into,” explained Hamza.
He said COVID 19 also brought about a few complications for him and his fellow deaf community.
“We had to wear masks and we couldn’t lipread to communicate with those who cannot sign. The only time that deaf people were spoken to about Covid 19 was when the President addressed the nation.
“Maybe we should start talking seriously about teaching every child at school to learn the sign language,” he shared.
Honourable speaker, Given was equally elated when the honourable members chose him to chair their session for this year.
“I am very happy not only for myself, but for the other children who could not make it to the Parliament. I may not be able to make an atomic bomb with my hands, but with my heart and words, I will,” he promised.
Ms Lumka Oliphant, the Social Department spokesperson said the Parliament, which is held in honour of South Africa’s first democratic President, Tata Nelson Mandela, will bring children across South Africa to debate and deliberate on issues such as COVID 19, teenage pregnancy, climate change, poverty under the theme: “Accountability to enhance the voices and rights of children during COVID-19 and beyond!”
Oliphant said the ultimate goal of the Children’s Parliament was to create a channel for children’s participation and afford them an opportunity to influence policy as well as programmes targeting at ensuring that their rights are realised.
“Last year, the Children’s Parliament could not sit due to COVID 19 and this year’s parliamentary proceedings are in line with the Social Development Month campaign, which seeks to reach out to poor and vulnerable South Africans under the theme: ‘Delivering DSD Services During COVID-19 in the Year of Charlotte Maxeke,”‘ said Oliphant.