Programme involves learners
The Northern Cape was identified as the perfect platform to launch a learners’ engagement programme due to its richness in ethnic and cultural groups among schools.
In the programme, learners of different schools in the Frances Baard District Municipality tackled issues aimed at promoting non-racialism, co-existence, moral regeneration, equal youth development and access to the department’s services.
It was launched at the Horseshoe Conference Centre on Monday, 30 July, as a pilot programme by the deputy minister of Arts and Culture, Makhotso Sotyu.
According to Sotyu, the programme was driven by their responsibility, as the Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage, of nation building and social cohesion.
Sotyu pointed out some disturbing behaviour like hate speech, racism, bullying and teasing that occur at schools, which happen on social media platforms.
“That is why we as a department saw it proper to come up with a programme like this where we would take a number of learners of different ethnic groups and put them under one roof to discuss and come up with solutions,” Sotyu said.
Sotyu could not stop raving at the level of open-mindedness the learners displayed.
“We should have done this a long time ago.
“The feedback the learners gave should definitely be taken seriously.
“These children showed us they know better than we thought about racism, communication, and everything that disturbs us as a country.
“This was beyond my expectations.
“The national department has to know about this,” she said.
Sotyo singled out bullying at schools, which she said needs to be dealt with urgently as it is clear that no proper communication is in place to address it.
She further mentioned that learners involved in bullying will be blacklisted.
The way forward, according to Sotyu, is to compile a report on the event and present it to the minister of Arts and Culture who is responsible for nation building.
She said the same project will be extended to other provinces where they will do the same exercise to see whether what is being experienced in the Northern Cape, is experienced in other provinces.
“If the strategy that we are using in government is not working, we will see what the problems are.
“Then, even if it means changing the strategy on how we approach this, we will do it.
“Sometimes it is difficult to change the strategy if you don’t know what is happening.”
Sotyu expressed her disgust at the recent protests where learners were prevented from going to school, including the burning of the Galeshewe Library in the process.
“Firstly, let us not use our children to lead protests.
“We have noticed that most of those who were in the protests, were young people.
“Secondly, when you protest for something, why burn the library that has nothing to do with that matter?
“Those are scarce resources that we try to bring to the community.
“What about the kids, what about the archives, what about the lost information?” she lashed.
The learners’ engagement programme comprised plenary and commission sessions, a mini-expo and an exhibition comprising of diverse arts and culture exhibitions and performances.
An additional expo of relevant departments such as Higher Education and Training, the National Student Financial Assistance Scheme (NSFAS), and Labour, was also included.
This was done to ensure maximum support in information and shows concrete assistance for these learners, in preparation for post-high school life.