ASSITEJ SA believes strategic partnerships, including importantly within the arts, can avert child and youth demise.
It’s over a week since the tragic incident in the Eastern Cape took national headlines with the death of 21 youth at the Enyobeni Tavern in East London. Police are still busy with their investigations into the cause of the deaths.
At ASSITEJ SA we continue to be pained by this tragic incident and our thoughts are with the families and peers, who not only grieve, but also remain anxious about what the police investigations may reveal.
We are deeply concerned that under-aged children and youth were allowed in the tavern to consume alcohol, and furthermore that they had no other recourse to entertainment and engagement in their community. We regret that such activities work counterproductive to the work developed by ASSITEJ SA and allied organizations, which aim to develop the child in a healthy and nurturing manner
As an organization that works with and for children through the arts, we express our deep regret for the appalling loss of lives of young people. We send our sincere condolences to the families of those affected by the tragedy and beyond.
We also call on government to work in partnership with ASSITEJ SA and allied organisations to promote and give direct support to strategic and conducive programs in under-resourced communities to provide positive options for South African youth, which make the most of their energies and talents, and provide a sense of direction and personal empowerment. In this way, we believe that it is possible to avoid youth delinquency, the exploitation by tavern owners and others who seek only to further their commercial interests with no responsibility to the children and young people they harm, and the potential for further harm to South African youth through a degenerating social system.
An African adage suggests that it takes a village to raise a child. In times where caregivers for children extend beyond families to wider circles and indeed, even to social media, a closer look at the adage calls for strategic rethinking. We suggest that this calls for measures to be employed by all role players, including families and friends, and all artists with a commitment to children and young people, to ensure that the children grow up with positive role-models in safe environments, with appropriate opportunities for self-development and social engagement, that can be platforms for them to realise their full potential. The arts and artists can play an important role in providing these platforms.
We remain resolute that instruments such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) provide enough basis for everyone who cares for the child to take a stance in ensuring that our children and youth are not preyed on or vulnerable to the kind of tragedy that Enyobeni Tavern represents.