CAPE TOWN, Society must invest in its children to ensure that South Africa has a bright future, said Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe when he launched the South African Child Gauge 2017 in Observatory in Cape Town on Tuesday.

The gauge, which is published by the University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute, in partnership with several institutions, explores what the country’s children’s needs to not only survive, but to also thrive. The gauge found, among other things, that while child poverty has decreased and children’s survival and access to basic services have improved, this is still not enough to unlock the full potential of all South African children.

Violence, poverty, hunger and poor quality education continue to compromise children’s development and life chances.

Radebe said the launch of the gauge was fitting, as it took place not long after government launched the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign.

If we want to transform South Africa into a society with stable families and communities, strong and accountable institutions, sustainable economic growth, a country that maximises the potential of its people, that is culturally rich and has a place in the changing world, we need to pay careful attention to how we are raising our children. To radically transform South Africa requires us to invest in their care, health, education and protection. It is fundamental that we invest in our children from an early age, he said.

The Minister said the findings of the Child Gauge must be used to strengthen the public service and to also aid other sectors, including the private sector and civil society organizations, to enable them to better respond to the needs of children. He said the right indicators were needed to ensure the National Development Plan correctly tracked the progress that the country was making to improve the lives of children.

We must remove all barriers for children to access quality services, particularly in the first 1 000 days of their lives. As a nation, we must be mindful of the importance of investing in our children if we want to move the country forward. Parents, care givers, teachers and policy makers need to remember that we are today deciding on what country we want in the future. The way we raise or treat children and what we teach them about who they are, their potential and power is all moulding the adults they will be tomorrow, Radebe said.

Releasing the key findings of the South African Child Gauge 2017, Lucy Jamieson, a senior researcher at the Children’s Institute, said a recent study found that violence against children cost South Africa an estimated 239 billion Rand (about 17.5 billion US dollars), or 6.0 per cent of the GDP in 2015.

In addition, stunting, which is a sign of malnutrition, whicht affects one in four children under the age of five in South Africa, compromises the child’s education, long-term health and employment prospects, and costs the country an estimated 62 billion (Rand) annually.

On a positive note, she said South Africa had progressed in some areas to ensure that children have access to basic services. She said 89 per cent of children had access to electricity and 68 per cent had access to water, while 58 per cent had access to sanitation. While this marked progress, it was an indication that more still needs to be done to ensure that more of them are not left behind.