Conceptualisations of childhood in Namibia: new legislation versus public perception

  • Rachel Coomer
  • Nicolette Roman
  • Edna Rich

Abstract

Background
Namibia is in the process of developing new children’s legislation. The aim of this research paper is to explore how the public conceptualisation of childhood in Namibia compares to provisions in the Child Care and Protection Bill (April 2010 draft).

Method
A qualitative methodological approach was used to explore participants’ conceptualisations of childhood in Namibia. Detailed interviews were conducted with four community members aged 23-75 years. Interviewee one was a 23-year old Oshiwambo male; interviewee two was a 38-year old Damara/Nama female; interviewee three was a 42-year old white female age and interviewee four was a 75-year old white male. Using the data collected, thematic analysis was used to formulate themes within the data.

Results
The main themes identified were the role of the state versus the role of parents in childhood, the participation of children in decision-making and the protection of children. The results show that whilst public opinion and the proposals in the bill overlap in some areas such as the need to protect children, in many areas public opinion and the proposals in the bill differ to a great extent. Differences are particularly noticeable for issues such as parental authority versus parental responsibility and child participation.

Conclusion
At present the conceptualisation of childhood envisaged by the new legislation goes beyond public understanding of childhood. Government and stakeholders should do more to prepare the public for the bill to ensure that the Act is well-received in Namibia.
Keywords: childhood, conceptualisation, perception, legislation.

References

Aries, P. (1962). Centuries of Childhood. New York: Random House.

Central Bureau of Statistics. (2008). A review of poverty and inequality in Namibia. Windhoek, Namibia:

National Planning Commission

Ehlers, E., & Frank, C. (2008). Child participation in Africa. In Children’s Rights in Africa. Sloth-Nielsen, J. (Ed) Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Flick, U. (2006). An introduction to qualitative research. Third edition. London, England: Sage Publications Inc.

Freeman, M. (1997). The moral status of children. Essays on the rights of the child. The Netherlands: Kluwer Law

International.

Government of Namibia. (2009). National Youth Council Act 3 of 2009. Windhoek, Namibia: Government of

Namibia.

Himonga, C. (2008). African customary law and children’s rights: intersections and domains in a new era. In Children’s Rights in Africa. Sloth-Nielsen, J. (Ed) Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

James, A & James AL. (2004). Constructing Childhood. Hampshire, England: Palgrave MacMillan.

Jenkins H. (1998). The children’s culture reader. New York, United States of America: New York University Press.

Mahery, P. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Maintaining its value in international and

South African Child Law. In Ed Boezart, T. (2009). Child law in South Africa. Claremont, South Africa. Juta and Co Ltd.

Menges, W. (2008). Grandmother jailed over deadly beating of boy. The Namibian. Available at: Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. (2009). Consent to medical treatment, contraceptives and testing. Available at:

Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS). (2008a). Report on the 2008 National HIV Sentinel Survey. Windhoek, Namibia: Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS). (2008). Namibian Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07. Windhoek: Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. 2009. Namibia Labour Force Survey, Windhoek: Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

Montgomery, H. (2003). An introduction to childhood: anthropological perspectives on children’s lives.

England: Wiley-Blackwell. Nieuwenhuys, O. (2010). Keep asking: Why childhood? Why children? Why global? Childhood. 17(3) 291–296.

Petrén A & Hammarberg T. (2000). The political influence of children. In Children’s rights. Turning principles into

practice. Stockholm Sweden; .Save the Children Sweden.

Petrén A & Hart R. (2000). The child’s right to development. In Children’s rights. Turning principles into practice. Stockholm Sweden; .Save the Children Sweden.

Skelton, A. (2009). Parental responsibilities and rights. In Ed Boezart, T. (2009). Child law in South Africa.

Claremont, South Africa. Juta and Co Ltd.

Smith, A.B. (2007). Children and young people’s participation rights in education. International Journal

of Children’s Rights 15; 147–164.

Steinitz, L. (2009). Guidelines for Promoting Child Participation. Windhoek, Namibia; Family Health

International.

Terre Blanche, M & Kelly, K (2001). Interpretive methods. In M. Terre Blanche & K. Durrheim (Eds.), Research

in practice: Applied methods for the social sciences. (pp. 123-144). Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.

Section
Articles