Faculty of Law

Making a Difference in Society: The University of Pretoria Child Law Clinic

The rights of children are protected by the constitution. The South Africa’s Children’s Act of 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005) relates to the care and protection of children, defining parental responsibilities and rights.

This law makes provision for matters such as children’s courts, adoption, child abduction and surrogate motherhood. This encourages the prioritisation of the best interest of the child, giving the child the right to participate in any matter concerning them even if they are living with a disability or chronic illness.

Organisations continue to join hands to tighten child protection yet every hour, a child murder or assault is reported in South Africa. At least a third of children in South Africa have experienced some form of maltreatment.  

Could South Africa be failing its children?

I am Ashley.

The Centre for Child Law helped me get wheelchair access at my local school. It  has changed my life and inspired me to try to help others.

Thank you UP.

Being socially responsible matters.

The South African Constitution has been hailed across the world for being an instrument of transformation that guarantees socio-economic rights.  One of the most notable provisions in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution is section 28 which have “child-specific” rights that children are, in addition to all the other rights in the Bill of rights, entitled to. These include the right to a name and nationality, the right to parental and family care, the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation as well as the right to have their best interests be the paramount consideration in any matter that concerns them.

These rights are expanded upon in various laws such as the Children’s Act, the Child Justice Act , the Sexual Offences Act and the South African Schools Act- just to name a few.  But there is often a gap between the rights in the Constitution and their implementation on the ground.

A further right guaranteed by the Constitution is the right to access a basic education as provided for in section 29(1).  The right to education has been characterised as a gate-way right as it enables access to other rights and for many developing countries, ensures that citizens are not relegated to a life of poverty.  The South African Constitutional Court has made it clear that all children should have access to a basic education, and that government must prioritise access to education. It is clear from the law and policy that access must be non-discriminatory- everyone must be included.

When 17 year-old Ashely Melaton applied to his local community high school, he was refused admission because the school was of the view that it could not accommodate his wheelchair.  Ashley has brittle bone disease. By law, all schools and public places must provide access for persons with disabilities, including wheelchair ramps. Ashley was determined to attend the school of his choice, so with his mother’s support, got assistance from UP Centre for Child Law for legal assistance where senior attorney Anjuli Maistry took up his case. The Centre’s efforts paid off – Ashley was admitted to the school.

The Centre for Child Law, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2018, was set up to create excellence around child law as a field of study.  In addition to this, the Centre aims to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of children are realised through litigation, research and advocacy. Through teaching child law and children’s rights the Centre hopes to encourage young lawyers to become child rights experts. Read more


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