April 24, 2014
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South Africa – Children in poverty

Last week saw the release of World Bank’s sobering assessment report which revealed that a child’s chance to make it in life as a successful person would be pre-determined by his/her ethnicity at birth, gender, combined with lack of education. To some extent, these inequalities have generally contributed to the threats of economic growth in South Africa, roughly 18 years after the end of apartheid.

In the report, “South Africa, the continent’s largest economy by far and its only G-20 member, displays strikingly high and persistent inequality and marginalization for an upper middle-income country.” This is in reference to the great levels of unemployment and poverty which still remains at a high rate in the outskirts of the urban centres despite the fact that the country has managed to tackle major issues and transform its economy.

“South Africa is often compared to Brazil, which also has a huge income gap, but while the Latin American country has narrowed the divide over the last decade, here the chasm is as deep as ever,” the World Bank said. 58 percent of South Africa’s economy is accounted for by 10 percent of the richest class while 0.5 percent is by the bottom class which is composed of the middle and low class people. For a balance to be attained, the riches must be evenly spread in the economy. The report further revealed that social inequalities were still rife and especially along the racial lines. The whites are said to be largely shielded from economic hardships courtesy of the privileges inherited from the foreign apartheid regime.

“Our results show that a South African child not only has to work harder to overcome the disadvantages at birth due to circumstances, but having done so, finds that these reemerge when seeking employment as an adult,” said Sandeep Mahajan who headed the report. He shed some light on the unemployment cases which according to him emerged as a result of disconnect from the job markets. In the first quarter of 2012, cases of unemployment are said to have risen from 23.9 percent to a 25.2 percent from the previous quarter. Most affected and forming this part of group were the black people. Labour analyst Andrew Levy attributed the challenges of inequality to be “deeply rooted and not unique to South Africa. History has shown that societies that have emerged from any kind of unjust system of governance struggle with inequality.”

He however added that much could be done in the new government especially the education system. The report also said that majority of the parents who never finished school and hailed from the rural areas were most likely not to finish their education levels and worst to this, access modern health care. Though attention was given to children in the country via the country’s budgetary allocations which formed a huge stake, many of them are said to be coerced to learn in open spaces or under trees. Azar Jasmine, an economist said, “The only way to reverse the trend of inequality is to invest in education.”

Just the other day, the Government was accused by education campaigners for failure of adhering to a court order instructing for the distribution of books to schools located across the poor northern province of Limpopo.

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Roggers Momata is Newstime Africa's East Africa Editor

Roggers Momata
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