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Introducing Children Count
A rights-based approach
South Africa’s commitment to the realisation of socio-economic rights is contained in the Constitution, the highest law of the land, which includes provisions to ensure that no person should be without the basic necessities of life. These basic necessities are specified in the Bill of Rights, and particularly section 26 (housing), 27 (health care, food, water and social security), 28 (the special rights of children) and 29 (education).
Children are specifically mentioned, and as well as the general rights, every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services. These form part of what are collectively known as socio-economic rights. While these rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, the question is: How well is South Africa doing in realising these rights for all children? In order to answer this question we need to monitor the situation of children, which means that we need regular information that is specifically about them.
Children Count – Abantwana Bablulekile is an ongoing data and advocacy project of the Children’s Institute, and was established to monitor progress for children. It provides reliable and accessible child-centred information which can be used to inform the design and targeting of policies, programmes and interventions, and as a tool for tracking progress in the realisation of children’s rights.
Any monitoring project needs regular and reliable data, and South Africa is fortunate to be a fairly data-rich country. There is an array of administrative data sets and the national statistics body, Statistics South Africa, undertakes regular national population surveys which provide useful information on a range of issues. However most information about the social and economic situation of people living in South Africa does not focus on children, but rather counts all individuals or households. This is the standard way for central statistics organs to present national data, but it is of limited use for those interested in understanding the situation of children.
“Child-centred” data does not only mean that we use data about children specifically. It also means using national population or household data, but analysing it at the level of the child. This is important, because the numbers can differ enormously depending on the unit of analysis. National statistics tell us the unemployment rate, but only a child-centred analysis can tell us how many children live in households where no adult is employed. National statistics tell us what proportion of households are without adequate sanitation, but when we use a child-centred analysis, the proportion is significantly higher.
How to use Children Count
Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile presents child-centred data on many of the areas covered under socio-economic rights. These are organised into themes or ‘domains’ which articulate with the main socio-economic rights – demography and care arrangements, income poverty and social security, education, health status, housing and basic services. Within each domain is a set of indicators, which measure specific outcomes for children.
The site includes downloadable fact sheets on 40 child-centred indicators. It also includes an interactive tool that will allow you to download graphical presentations of the data such as bar graphs, trend graphs, tables and maps. It is possible to view data by year and by provinces, and in some cases by age group, sex and race.
Each indicator includes a commentary that provides context and gives a brief interpretation of the data, as well as technical notes and definitions for each indicator.
Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile uses a number of data sources. Some are administrative databases used by government departments (Health, Education, and Social Development) to record and monitor the services they deliver. Some of the HIV/AIDS data are from the ASSA model, a statistical model developed by the Actuarial Society of South Africa, which uses many different types of data sources to derive estimates of the incidence of HIV and treatment needs. Most of the indicators presented are unique to the project, and are derived from analyses of the General Household Survey conducted by Statistics South Africa.
As new data become available with the release of national surveys and other data sources, it is possible to track changes in the conditions of children and their access to services over time. This year, Children Count includes national survey data for each year from 2002 and 2007.
Data sources are carefully considered before inclusion, and the strengths and limitations of each are outlined for each indicator.
Sample surveys are subject to error. The proportions or percentages simply reflect the mid-point of a possible range, but the true values could fall anywhere between the upper and lower bounds. The confidence intervals indicate the reliability of the estimate at the 95% level. This means that if independent samples were repeatedly taken from the same population, we would expect the proportion to lie between upper and lower bounds of the confidence interval 95% of the time.
It is important to look at the confidence intervals when assessing whether apparent differences between provinces or sub-groups are real. The wider the confidence interval, the more uncertain the proportion. Where confidence intervals overlap for different sub-populations or time periods we cannot be sure that there is a real difference in the proportion, even if the mid-point proportions differ. Where available, confidence intervals are provided in the tables and are represented in bar graphs by vertical lines at the top of each bar ( ).