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The rights and responsibilities inherent in building a strong, united community were discussed by learners at a citizenship summit.
TALKS and teachings about Africa opened the Citizenship Learners Summit, the second year the gathering is being held.


Learners work on their first projectLearners work on their first projectThe four-day summit, hosted by the Office of the City Speaker in conjunction with the Joburg Student Council, began on 11 March at Konka Camp in Magaliesburg. More than 150 learners from various high schools in Joburg took part.

“The idea of bringing learners from different backgrounds together is to promote the spirit of unity,” said the manager of civic education in the Office of the Speaker, Brenda Andrews.

Reinforcing this idea, team building activities were arranged to build unity between the learners. On Friday, the participants were divided into groups and had to prepare and present projects about Africa, on topics such as culture and tradition, religion, music, languages and politics.

Cutting up cardboard and painting was the order of the day as learners worked on their projects. They shared information and ideas. “Africa is all about ubuntu,” said Triston Marot from King Edward Vlll School, presenting the project of behalf of his group. “You make Africa great.”

The crowd cheered when Tebogo Debele from Johannesburg Secondary School recited the oft quoted speech by former president Thabo Mbeki, given when the South African Constitution Bill was adopted in 1996 – “I am an African”. All learners and mentors stood up and applauded Tebogo.

“We must instil patriotism in these children by teaching them African roots … It is important to revive the spirit and patriotism that prevailed among Africa people during the World Cup,” said Andrews.

The summit was all about grooming a generation of young people who would provide genuine leadership in future, she explained. “We need to invest in the future of our children. It takes a village to raise a child.”




Some of the stunning projects presented by learners at the summitSome of the stunning projects presented by learners at the summitFirst held in 2010, the summit grown significantly. “Schools are responding well to this programme. This year we have 50 schools.”

The summit educates young citizens about the crucial role they play in contributing to the development of their communities and city. It exposes them to opportunities that will enable them to become active and responsible citizens.

Also present was the June 16 Foundation. Speaking to the learners, the chancellor of the organisation, Sandile Mazibuko, discussed the history of the role played by young people in shaping South Africa’s political landscape.

“The youth of 1976 watered the tree of liberation with their blood. If you can’t enjoy the fruits of the tree, you should at least enjoy the shade,” said Mazibuko.

Encouraging the youngsters to work hard, he added: “I never had the luxury of going to school. I have acquired my qualifications in prison under the tough apartheid system.

Inspired by Mazibuko’s words, learners stood up and said: “I turned disaster into stars, lemon into lemonade.”

Responding to a question about how he survived in prison, he said: “It is all about focus. I had a mission to disappoint the apartheid system and not my people. I told myself that even if fell, I would fall on my knees and not on my stomach.”




Youth for Human Rights
Also at the summit was Youth for Human Rights, which made a presentation about basic human rights. To start the session, learners discussed with the officials their understanding of human rights.

Tony Mathipa, the national president of Youth for Human Rights International, said: “Judging from the response, learners are well informed about the rights due to them.”


Learners take a swim, one of the sporting activities linedLearners take a swim, one of the sporting activities lined upWith emphasis on human right number 26, the right to education, Mathipa said, quoting Nelson Mandela: “It is through education that a daughter of an illiterate man can be become a doctor and a son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, and a son of a farm worker can become a great president of one great nation.”

Youth for Human Rights International teaches young people about their human rights based on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



Student Council elections
Among the other activities at the summit, the learners also had to focus on elections for the Joburg Student Council. Through the weekend, they put up election posters and worked on their election campaigns.

The council elections are run professionally like any other poll and are facilitated by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). “We educate learners about electoral procedures to be followed to ensure that elections are free and fair,” said an IEC democracy specialist, Michael Makobe.

As part of the election campaigning, learners had to present manifestos. There are eight portfolios in the council being contested: mayor, Speaker, health, environment, sports, economic development, youth development and safety.



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