Original Research

Three perspectives on the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’

Johannes L. Van der Walt, Izak J. Oosthuizen
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 58, No 1 | a3054 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v58i1.3054 | © 2024 Johannes L. van der Walt, Izak J. Oosthuizen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 January 2024 | Published: 06 May 2024

About the author(s)

Johannes L. Van der Walt, Unit for Education and Human Rights in Diversity, Faculty of Education, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Izak J. Oosthuizen, Unit for Education and Human Rights in Diversity, Faculty of Education, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Abstract

The research reported in this article was centred on three research questions about the issue of ensuring that, in education and schooling, the principle of the best interests of the child is respected. The inauspicious treatment of children through the ages led the international community in the form of the United Nations to adopt its Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. The series of developments culminating in the adoption of the CRC led to the formulation of the following three research questions: (1) What motivated the United Nations to adopt its CRC, in particular its formulation of the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’? (2) How did the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’ subsequently find expression in the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the South African jurisprudence following thereafter? (3) What perspectives does the Bible, as the Word of God, provide on the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’? Interpretivism-constructivism was used in putting together the thesis developed in this article. Interpretivism was applied to the results of an initial literature study on the status of the child, followed by constructivism in construing the line of argumentation that follows. The second part of the article emerged after a critical analysis of the post-1994 legislation and jurisprudence in South Africa. The norm set by the CRC has been respected since the advent of the new political dispensation in South African legislation and subsequent jurisprudence. The Bible, as the Word of God, also provides perspectives regarding the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’, although it does not employ this phrase as such. It teaches that since children are human beings and created in the image of God, and also because they are vulnerable, they have to be treated with loving care, respect, sympathy, and empathy.

Contribution: The article sheds light on the way the concept ‘best interests of the child’ attained international acceptance and subsequently obtained application in the South African constitutional arena since 1994. It also creates a link between legal stipulations and biblical perspectives regarding the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’.


Keywords

best interests of the child; child; child anthropology; Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989); education; human rights

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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