Children in Hwange say some of the challenges they face in accessing education and basic facilities can improve if they are given a chance to participate in the budgetary process.
Nqobile Ncube*, a boy aged 15 from Lupote village, Hwange, spent seven months at home last year without any school work, even on WhatsApp or radio. He briefly returned to school at year-end and closed again indefinitely.
Nqobile thinks that if he can participate in the budgeting process, children’s welfare will improve from its current state. The 2021 national budget consultation process came and went on to presentation in parliament for approval without children noticing the events.
In a country that has established the child parliament, children in Hwange say it is discouraging that neither child parliament nor elected parliament members bothered to visit the grassroots and ask children in their constituencies.
“I would suggest that the government invests in ICTs, especially in rural areas. Now with COVID-19, everyone needs to be accommodated. I also wish to see our area having access to a radio signal,” says Ncube, a 15-year-old boy.
A survey by The Citizen Bulletin in Hwange shows that even when government and other stakeholders try to incorporate children’s views, minors in rural areas are not given chance and attention.
The highlights of the 2021 national budget indicate social protection as a key to improving physical and emotional health.
Nkululeko Sibanda of Empumalanga, Hwange, is 17-years-old but has never participated in the local board or national budgeting process. Nkululeko’s concerns are that children’s needs and issues have not featured in budget discussions and debates.
“I know what a budget entails, and it’s my wish to find a platform I can contribute to my local community,” says Sibanda.
“The challenge is the information seems to be hidden from us. In Hwange, we only hear that they were at Lwendulu hall after they have gone. We have issues we need to contribute for our welfare,” says Nkululeko.
In 2013 more than 100 Junior Parliamentarians from the five southern Provinces of Zimbabwe (Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Midlands) attended a training workshop on Child-Friendly National Budgeting Initiative (CFNBI) in Bulawayo financed by Barclays Bank with technical and operational support from UNICEF.
The workshop’s objective was to capacitate Junior Parliamentarians to train other children in their respective constituencies on effective participation in the budgeting processes in their homes, communities, and national levels.
Children in Dampa, Makwandara and other rural areas in Hwange face challenges on food and nutrition due to climate change effects. Of late, they cannot access online lessons introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a lack of ICT infrastructure.
Another child, Nomusa Ncube*, a 15-year-old student at a local Hwange school, blamed the elders for side-lining children in the budgetary process,
“For some of us who live in town, we have come to know about the budget consultation meetings but never attended one. Our parents see the processes as meant for adults. The situation is worse for us, girls. We are regarded as irrelevant in the whole process,” Nomusa Ncube says.
Petronella Nyamapfene, the Director of Justice for Children (JCT), laments the children’s lack of participation in the budgetary process.
“The national budget consultation meetings are not much publicised; therefore, there is limited access to information for children. You cannot believe that his information is not readily available to us as lawyers and as an organisation that works for child rights. We need to understand how to get involved, and then we empower children to participate. Dissemination of information on accessible platforms is key to ensure the voices of children are captured in budgets,” says Nyamapfene.
Non-participation of children in the budgetary process has been cited as a violation of the law, especially the constitution. Section 19 directs the state to adopt policies and measures to ensure that the children’s best interests are paramount.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin