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Poetry and debates on what it means to be an African were the activities at Freedom Square for schoolchildren from a variety of local schools.
SCHOOLCHILDREN learned about solidarity and to embrace being an African in a campaign against xenophobia on Africa Day.

Duduzile Mathosi recites a poemDuduzile Mathosi recites a poemScores of young people from all corners of Johannesburg gathered at the historical Walter Sisulu Freedom Square Hall in Kliptown on 25 May to observe the day. The chanting of freedom songs and slogans could be heard from a distance.

Participating schools included Oracle, Keleketso, Moletsane, Qalakabutsha and Finetown high schools; Ponelopele and Eqinisweni secondary schools; Ithuba Lethu Senior Secondary and Enkanyezini Senior Primary. Members of the Yeoville Community Centre also attended.

The theme of the day was “Bashonaphi ubuntu we-ma Afrika”, a Zulu phrase that loosely translated means, “What happened to humanity, Africans”. The event was a City initiative.

Activities began on a high note; 12-year-old Duduzile Mathosi from Enkanyezini Senior Primary recited a poem he had written specially for the day, titled “Africa my Beginning”.

“Africa my beginning, Africa my ending, Africa the land of King Shaka Zulu, Nelson Mandela and the great Samora Machel,” he recited, to claps and cheers from the audience.

Duduzile said the poem was inspired by his love for Africa.

History education
Pleased with this performance, Kimari Nehusi, an education researcher from the University Of East London, in Britain, said: “This is what happens when you educate young people. Mental liberation of the African child is crucial in building a progressive Africa.

Kimari NehusiKimari Nehusi: mental liberation crucial “In order to understand who we are, we need to educate ourselves about where we come from. Africans are the inventors of civilisation. There was nobody else when history was born and we should celebrate this.”

He emphasised the need to teach young people about African liberation. “Being liberated is a process and it will be impossible to free our minds without knowing who we are.”

Nehusi quoted Steven Biko, saying “the most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.

“Xenophobia symbolises how colonised our minds are. We need to free our minds from chains of colonialism and we can only achieve that through education.”

Nehusi believes that teaching history should not be compromised as it is equally as important as subjects like maths and science.

United states
With Duduzile setting the standard, the atmosphere got more heated. Learners debated a range of topics about Africa, one of which was “Should Africa‘s borders be demolished?”. One group agreed with the motion; another opposed it.

“I believe Africa’s borders should be demolished because this will enable active economic interaction between African countries,” said 17-year-old Thandeka Mazibuko from Qalabutsha High School.

Thandeka argued that destroying the borders dividing African countries would alleviate xenophobia.

In response, 17-year-old Ponelopele Secondary learner, Peter Bonginkosi, argued: “Destroying the borders of Africa will be a disadvantage to the South African economy, and will increase poverty. The government will not be able to control and keep a record of the number of population.”

Peter, who seemed to have done better research on the topic, won over the judges. He made a presentation reflecting a number of poor African countries, and spoke about the disadvantages of destroying national borders.

Winners of the debate display their prizesWinners of the debate display their prizes“Our political ideologies differ, [as does] our approach to economic policies and our education system. All of these factors make it impossible to incorporate Africa into one state.”

After listening to heated debates, the deputy director of social assistance in the City’s community development department, Thuli Mlangeni, was impressed.

“It is encouraging to hear young people voicing strong opinions about some of the critical challenges involving our continent. We will continue to create these kinds of platforms for our young people.”

Mlangeni was accompanied by the director of social assistance, Jak Kosef.

“It is our responsibility to create a city that is welcoming. Two years ago, xenophobic attacks erupted in the city of Johannesburg and we felt that we needed to [do] something to educate our people. We want to create an environment where people from foreign countries will feel welcome,” said Kosef.

Mlangeni gave certificates to the top three debaters and two poets. They also received copies of the book, Being an Afrikan, written by Mandivamba Rukuni.

The top three debaters were:

Peter, a Grade 11 learner from Ponelopele Oracle Secondary;
Prudence Makhubele, a Grade 12 learner from Eqinisweni Secondary; and
Sifiso Sihlangu, a Grade 12 learner also from Eqinisweni Secondary.
The top two poets were Nico Kalolo, a Grade 12 learner from Ithuba Lethu Secondary, and Flatter Nzimande from Qalakabutsha Senior Secondary.

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