Why do children need mentors?
During the recent BRIGHT STARS MENTORSHIP PROGRAMME training held in Kempton Park the legal aspects of the age of consent for children came under the spotlight once again.
Under South African law children under 18 are considered minors who are unable to act independently with regards to certain matters without assistance from a parents or legal guardian. There are however exceptional circumstances under which children can legally make specific decisions and act independently.
For example, in South Africa the legal age for a child to consent to an HIV test, surgery or obtaining contraception is 12. A girl can consent to the termination of a pregnancy at any age without the knowledge of a parent or legal guardian.
This is the law’s attempt to provide solutions to the severe rape crisis and violence against women and children that is rife in South Africa, however, it does not solve the root problem. Children need to be taught about the consequences of their actions and that everything done today will have an impact on tomorrow. Without the rudder of sound parental guidance, children are left directionless and 12 year old girls need contraception, HIV tests and abortions.
I just realised once again how important it is to have responsible, reliable adult input if you are a child facing the difficult decisions life will offer. How much more in the case of vulnerable children who often don’t have good role-models in their lives and who are not aware of the consequences of their actions and choices.
A good mentor empowers his mentee to make the best possible decisions by sharing his own experience and helping the mentee to have access to enough information to make decisions that will benefit himself and those affected by his choices now and in the future.