Cape Town School Learners Empowered with Social Emotional Learning

Many studies show that the COVID‑19 crisis has significantly impacted young people’s mental health. Symptoms of anxiety and depression have risen dramatically among young people and remain higher than pre-crisis levels even with the partial re-opening of schools and the economy. Unfortunately, many schools in the township don’t offer any mental health support services; therefore, alternatives had to be found with great urgency.

Participants doing an exercise

Since the pandemic, Africa Unite has hosted a weekly visual Mental Health support to 40 learners from disadvantaged backgrounds as a form of Social Emotional Learning, teaching them how to bounce back from the numerous adversities they face. However, virtual interactions are not the same as live encounters.

On the 4th of September 2021, after the ease of lockdown restrictions, the first face to face workshop on Social Emotional Learning was finally held at the Africa Unite head office with representatives from seven Africa Unite School Clubs in the Cape Town region. Africa Unite School clubs are social clubs initiated at the school level, which allow learners to become agents of change within their schools and communities. They consider the school and its surroundings as a country. Each AU School club is led by a School president and seven ministers playing different roles.

The workshop was attended by the following selected School Presidents, Ministers of Education, and Ministers of Social Development and get capacitated by becoming Social Emotional Learning pioneers by sparking conversations, sharing tips, and organizing events in their respective schools and communities.

All 21 participants received an introduction into the five core competencies of Social Emotional Learning – Self Awareness, Emotional Regulation and Growth Mindset, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.

Despite some theoretical input from the facilitators, the workshop’s core was the practical activities that gave learners an in-depth understanding of what it really means to develop a Social Emotional Learning Skillset and how to facilitate these activities with other people.

Commenting on the workshop, one learner, Olona, said, “We learnt the significance of being aware of ourselves, knowing who we are, what we like and dislike, where are we from, understanding people around us and that we as people have similarities and differences that makes us who we are”.

“We also learnt on how to handle those differences that we might have as individuals. Then we were taught communication skills and how we can communicate properly without misunderstandings. For example, people cannot talk at the same time, we have to listen to one another, pay attention and pace ourselves accordingly when speaking, especially when doing public speaking,” Olona added.

Another participant added, “We were educated on anxiety, on what it is, how it is, and how anyone can get anxiety from uncomfortable situations that alarm us. We were not quite aware that anxiety is a small part of our brain that tells us when we’re in danger, like our intuition. The facilitator also demonstrated how we can calm ourselves when we get the anxiety attacks and that getting these anxiety attacks doesn’t mean that we’re sick and can’t manage it”. The learner added that after the training, they feel that their self-esteem is boosted and that they have a broader view of how to approach new people. As a result, we can understand ourselves and others better, and we thank Africa Unite for building us and being a community for unity and diversity.”

Participants playing SEL games

The workshop evaluation showed that participants found the workshop very informative and helpful and that they are committed to applying all that they learnt in the workshop in their lives and sharing the tools with their peers in school and at home. Furthermore, the exercise of sharing one’s insecurities and receiving motivational messages from the other participants was particularly impactful. It helped the learners gain confidence and realize that they are not alone with the critical voice in their head.

90% of participants mentioned that they are now more aware of themselves as well as people around them and that the whole session really brought everyone together, which is especially powerful considering the diversity of the group–age groups, cultures, nationalities, gender, and religion. This shows that teaching Social Emotional Learning is a powerful way to bring more social cohesion and help young people see their shared humanity in each other.

This month, there will be three additional Social Emotional Learning workshops in Gauteng and Durban. Thanks to the peer-to-peer approach, we are confident that this program will reach hundreds of young people and play a positive role in this generation’s mental wellbeing of this generation.

Commenting on the programme, Ms Mira Modise, the facilitator of the SEL programme at Africa Unite said that she was happy on the progress and impact made by the introduction of SEL among young learners. “More participants reported that sharing their experiences in the group made them stronger, and that they feel more comfortable with being perceived as “different”. This shows that SELF has a positive influence on identity and relationship building among participants”. Added Mira.

SEL participants

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The masses silenced: understanding the human rights violations in eSwatini – Report of the Webinar on the situation in the Kingdom of Eswatini (former Swaziland)

In Africa, the use of brutal force against peaceful protestors has become part of the structure of the political domain. Historically and in contemporary Africa, many regimes have resorted to the use of violence to silence citizens from pursuing political transformation and a balanced democratic system. With this, Africa’s pro-democracy movements will continue if absolute monarchical regime powers continue unchecked. This follows the police brutality and government-sanctioned violence in the Kingdom of Eswatini, which was sparked by protests that began in May 2021 following the death of Thabani Nkonyeni, a final year law student.

The rise of Eswatini masses against the injustices in various areas demanding reforms was met with brutal suppression from the police and the military, leading to the citizens’ arrests, deaths, and injuries. Within this context, Africa Unite Youth Assembly1 opened a virtual platform on the 22nd of July 2021, where young people across Africa came together to raise awareness on the plights of Eswatini citizens and mapped strategies on how to challenge human rights abuses. The objectives of the webinar were to understand the causes of violation of human rights leading to killing and injuries of the masses, to explore the impact, implications, and lessons from the crisis, and to map intervention strategies that young people across Africa can take in challenging human rights abuses and promoting peace. 53 participants attended the webinar.

The webinar was moderated by one of our Africa Youth Assembly members, Olerato Keegope, a Youth Advocacy and Communications Officer at Sentebale in Botswana. The opening remarks and unpacking of the objectives of the webinar were given by Thando Gwinji, a member of the Africa Youth Assembly and the Director of Youth Innovation Trust in Zimbabwe. Thando expressed how imperative the dialogue was for young people to find solutions and support Eswatini during this tiresome time in Africa. She also added that the webinar was happening at a crucial time in Africa where COVID-19, unemployment and civil unrest were high. Hence, it was important for Africa youth to devise initiatives to engage meaningfully and find solutions for all of African countries.

On the panelists, we had Maxwell Dlamini, a youth democracy activist and the co-founder at Ubuntu Leadership Academy in Eswatini, who gave the context of what was directly happening on the ground in eSwatini. We also had Mr. Dewa Mavhinga, the Director of Southern Africa Human Rights Watch, who provided a lens on the human rights situation in eSwatini by outlining the importance of pushing forth human rights reforms.

Mr Maxwell Dlamini is a youth democracy activist who has spent over four years in prison in the past decade for demanding democratic reforms in Eswatini. He has been charged with various charges of Treason, Sedition and Terrorism for critising the royal regime. He is Currently a Co-Founder and Vice Chairperson of Ubuntu Leadership Academy, a youth organization mobilising and organising young people to advance youth participation, democracy and Freedom in Eswatini as well as build and train the next layer of leadership in the country. Mr Dlamini is also a Former Student leader and has been honoured with AASU Students Activist Award For 2013, in recognition of the work he has done in improving students welfare and development in Eswatini. Mr Dlamini is currently on indefinite bail for the charges of Suppression of Terrorism Act with very strenuous bail conditions.

Mr Dewa Mavhinga is the Southern Africa Director with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. Dewa has more than ten years research and advocacy experience on Zimbabwe as well as in Southern Africa. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Dewa worked as the Regional Coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition based in Johannesburg. In 2012 Dewa co-founded the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, a public policy research think-tank based in Harare. He is a recipient of the British Chevening and Canon Collins Trust scholarship, Dewa holds a bachelor of law honors degree (LLB) from the University of Zimbabwe and a master of law degree in international human rights (LLM) for Essex University, United Kingdom.

In providing the context, Maxwell elucidated that the fundamental freedoms like freedom of economic development have been targeted and looked upon wrongly by the current regime leaving many languishing in poverty. He further added that the environment was volatile as youth participation in demanding change was criminalized. King Mswati III has the absolute power to appoint political leaders within the parliament without the citizens’ input. The Eswatini citizens have long dreamt of a just and prosperous kingdom governed by the rule of law; however, they continue to be denied as King Mswati III has responded with a highly militarized solution. Maxwell explained that in 2005 regardless of the promulgation of the Constitution of 2005, the Constitution was just a smokescreen used by authorities sorely to dispel the perception that not all was well in the Eswatini kingdom. Briefly, the Kingdom remains trapped between a traditional and contemporary form of government which has stemmed in a conflict between the application of democratic values and the conservation of Swazi law and tradition. The Kingdom has a non-party system and has electoral procedures based on Swazi custom.

Within this political landscape, the masses are demanding a multi-party democracy, a concept that remains distant from Eswatini’s political and constitutional dispensation. However, the current system of government does not accommodate political parties, presenting an inroad in so far as the enjoyment of the freedom of political association was concerned as sadly the Constitution of 2005 clandestinely supports the resentment towards a multi-party democracy.

Hence, the absence of participation of political parties in the political arena implies that political parties remain outcasts in so far as governing of the country was concerned.

The aforementioned has been some of the driving factors of protests which were sparked by the killing of a university student by the police. Young people have mobilized and participated in peaceful demonstrations and handing petitions demanding change from the government. However, there have been many arbitrary arrests, shootings with live ammunition towards peaceful protesters leading to death and injuries. Now, the military was looking for those who have participated in the activities and wants to arrest them. Many of the people who are already in custody are facing increased troubles because they are not offered bail or proper legal representation regarding their cases in court. “We need a democracy that will lift the people of Eswatini,” said Maxwell.

In explaining the situation through human rights lens, Mr. Mavhinga noted that there had been protests in the country for a long time. However, the government has engaged in a heavy reaction towards the demonstrations. Many of the military and government responses have involved shooting indiscriminately at the crowds during the protests using live ammunition. He added that there was a shutdown of the internet, which violated individuals’ fundamental right to gain information. In addition, the government is targeting many people by putting them in prison. Mr. Mavhinga also highlighted the importance of providing the youth and people of Eswatini with a voice to demand the end to human rights violations and advocated that solidarity was a crucial part in acting against these human rights violations.

Mr. Mavhinga said that despite the existence of international human rights norms and standards which most African countries acknowledge, no other continent in the world lacks respect for human rights in the way the African continent does. However, he added that there are severe concerns regarding respect for human rights and the rule of law remains an unfortunate reality in the Kingdom of Eswatini. “As much as Eswatini is a signatory of various United Nations Human Rights Conventions, those rights remain empty words in the absence of a legal and political order in which rights can be realized,” emphasized Mr. Mavhinga. “There needs to be a chorus of voices calling for change.” Mr. Mavhinga added. Hence, participants agreed that it was imperative to put pressure on Eswatini as its legal and political order must align and embrace democratic principles to ensure that the principles of human rights and the rule of law are protected.

The panelists called African youth to advocate and speak out that there are serious concerns regarding the use of force towards the people of Eswatini. They also highlighted the need to open more platforms to share the eSwatini experiences to bring forth the conditions to the spotlight. It was also suggested that African youth must mobilize and take the Eswatini government to the African Commission for gross violation of human rights. In addition, to build more robust networks that will push neighboring countries like South Africa, business owners like MTN, civil society organization donors like European Union to act to transform the situation.

It was also raised that young people should point out these violations while also giving the Eswatini youth a space to discuss their stories and testify their experiences. This is crucial to
presenting the need for actions towards the inhumane treatment of the Eswatini government. The Youth of Eswatini and Africa should bring forth these issues of the conditions in Eswatini to the spotlight. They must be demanding more significant reforms while working with human rights organizations to enact change. There needs to be substantial pressure put forth to bring about change for the country of Eswatini to neighboring countries like South Africa and the incoming African Union chairmanship, Malawi.

Recommendations:

To put pressure on the international and regional communities like European Union, United Nations, and African Union to assist Eswatini people set up a new constitutional dispensation
• eSwatini should embark on a constitutional review exercise to amend the Constitution to limit the powers of the King as an executive state official. It was highlighted that to do so. An interim government must be put in place to address these loopholes. Dialogue is a crucial step to setting reforms and a new inclusive government. Economic development is an essential part of helping the people.
• African youth in various countries must advocate and protest for change by sharing the stories of eSwatini widely and submitting petitions to eSwatini embassies.
• To identify critical allies’ countries like neighboring South Africa to act. It was also suggested to use the platform at the incoming Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in Lilongwe, Malawi, in August 2021.
• To build stronger networks as Africa youth and even approaching Malawi to put the situation of eSwatini as the top priority on the agenda of the SADC Summit. There is a need for an urgent lobby and mobilization of the youth of Malawi before the SADC summit happens in their own country
• Protest against MTN following its shutdown of internet in eSwatini
• Sanctions could be another form of putting pressure on the King and his government to end human rights violations and change the political landscape
• Neighboring African countries must offer sanctuary to the activists targeted by the ruling regime
• Africa youth to create a platform that will constantly inform youth about the development in Eswatini but most importantly knowing which forces the monarch uses to suppress the masses outside the Kingdom
• Young people to approach trade unions and explore what kind of assistance and solidarity they could suggest to them
• There is a need to understand the entire problem, so the intervention is most consistent with the requirements of the Eswatini people and comes to tackle the root causes
• Young people were called to utilize media to advocate for the rights of the marginalized.

In conclusion, young people acknowledged that there was a greater need to challenge the eSwatini situation by putting pressure on the ruling monarchy as pressure has a possibility of bringing change. Moreover, the participants acknowledged the need for political intervention,
the voice from other African countries, and targeting the key United Nations and African Union institutions in addressing the crisis.

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“Crossing divides and bridging communities”

It’s a new year and a new wave of human rights defenders and promoters have committed themselves to be Youth Human Rights Peer Educators to further promote a peaceful and harmonious Africa.

From the 18th to the 20th June 2021, Africa Unite held its third Youth Human Rights Peer Educators Training Weekend this year in addition to the two held in Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng Provinces early this year. The training was held at the Saldanha Bay Municipal resort which is located 111km North-West of Cape Town, South Africa.

Peer Educators from all over the Western Cape in Saldanha Bay

This workshop was conducted in partnership with the Saldanha Bay Municipality (SBM) and acts as a device for future collaborations between the SBM and Africa Unite.

The training took place in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and is also the first year no members of the Africa exchange program were present, the training included a diverse group of youth from across the African continent, from a group of 19 young people (11 participants from Cape Town and 8 from the Saldanha Bay Municipality how many male & female). Of the 19 South African participants, 4 were originally from outside of the country (The Netherlands, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which adds to the diverse group of cultures, languages and experiences to the weekend and training. The purpose of the training was to capacitate young people from different backgrounds with knowledge and necessary skills in Human Rights for them to become Youth Human Rights Peer Educators in their respective communities and countries.

Participant Naod Ghebru explaining how to pronounce the term Human Rights in Tigrinya 

During this 3-day training, the facilitators covered the following content:

Human Rights Principles

Human Rights Education: What and Why?

Instruments protecting Human Rights locally and globally.

The rights of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, women, children, elderly people, refugees and migrants etc).

How to build Human Rights Communities.

How to facilitate human rights information sessions in various communities and countries.

In addition to this, we had a meeting on challenges facing young people in their respective communities and how young people could help bring solutions.

During the training, the youth were divided into 4 countries namely, (1) Cameroon, (2) Mozambique, (3) Ghana and (4) Kenya. Most of their group work was done according to the above country groups. One of the highlights of the weekend training was the mock African Union assemblies where each country group was invited to make a presentation under the following indicators: (1) a brief history about the country, (2) current political issues, (3) socio-economic and cultural dynamics, (4) The resources of the Country and (5) In case they win, how each country intends to use the $50 billion donations in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

After different presentations were done by the President of each country, Kenya took the prize due to their highly creative presentation (including their creative dress code), teamwork and well-informed presentation on the country they represented. Cameroon came in a very close 2nd.

To mimic the traditional winning procedure, the group members were issued a mock cheque of $50 billion as well as a suitcase containing the funds for aid to their country. Nonetheless, the purpose of this activity was not just to highlight the importance of teamwork, but rather to also allow our youth to research and understand the political and socio-economic background of each African country. A background which we stress all Africans to familiarize themselves with.

Chairman of the African Union Lyle R Breda and President of the World Bank Carron Jordaan

Furthermore, during these 3-days, the facilitators used simulation activities and role-playing which made the youth reflect on their attitudes and behavior on how they interact with others. The youth participants were highly motivated on how they can go back to their respective communities/countries and disseminate the knowledge they have acquired during the training in their own families, communities, places of worship, universities, youth groups and other appropriate places.

Although the youth were from different backgrounds, they were excited about the levels of interaction, the content of the training and the skills which were gained throughout the weekend.

To conclude the training session, a representative from the SBM, Mr Andre’ Levacks the public participation officer for the municipality explained the responsibilities and role of local government and the opportunity for public participation in social issues and workings of government. Mr. Levacks had also offered the support of the municipality to these prospective Peer Educators in Laingville on the condition that they proactively engaged their community to facilitate Human Rights dialogues, workshops and community-building activities.

Public participations officer for the SBM Andre’Lewaks explaining the roles and responsibilities of the municipality to the weekend participants

The participants were then handed the certificates of completion and the Human rights training manual to complete the session.

The two groups from Cape Town and Saldanha committed to tackling social issues such as teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, xenophobia and Gender-based violence, respectively, by engaging, educating and equipping their communities with the knowledge gained from the training. The two groups also planned and proposed ways to raise funds and which stakeholders to partner with.

Overall, the youth made a clear commitment to go back to their respective communities and to conduct similar information sessions. They also committed that they will use channels available to raise issues rather than resulting in protests in the first place. Young people thanked the SBM and AU for this great opportunity and promise to use it to sensitize other young people to join them.

Western Cape Peer Educator intake for 2021

Here are some comments made by the young leaders :

“Some lessons from this event will stay with me forever: to solve new types of issues, we must think out of the usual norms, thousand people or group of people can have thousand divergent opinions, but they can still find strength in their differences.”– Petro Mbwanya (South Africa via DRC)

“I learnt how to apply human rights in practice and how to formulate a platform on which to educate people about human rights.” Ofentse Maybe (South Africa)

“It was very amazing education and interactive leaving a sense of impact or a mental footprint.” – Nam Malgas (South Africa)

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AFRICA UNITE TEAM BUILDING HIKE 2021 REPORT

Africa Unite organized a hike to Lion’s Head as part of a team spirit exercise. On May 22nd, staff members, peer educators, interns, and friends of AU gathered to take up the challenge.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Hiking can be a true challenge, both on a personal level and as a team effort. Indeed, beyond being a physical activity, it also requires working together because not everyone goes at the same speed. For example, someone who walks fast has to know when to lead and when to help others keep going and not give up, which is exactly what happened to us that day. Throughout this hike, we had time to connect and develop a strong team spirit. Everyone went all the way to the top even if it was harder for some people than for others. In the end, the view and the feeling of pride for the whole team for not giving up and staying positive the whole day were worth it all.  

Leader, Youth Radio Program coordinator, also joined the 14 participants to conduct some interviews along the way. With the help of Mihle, he asked them questions about their expectations and feelings about the hike. You will be able to hear it all on Africa Unite Youth Radio very soon!

A whole day of hiking

What was supposed to be a morning hike ended up being a day-long outing! How did this happen you may ask? Well, here it goes. On Saturday, May 22nd we all met up at Africa Unite’s office at 8 am to go to the meeting point together, which was at The Glen Tree Circle. Early but happy! Once everyone had arrived and the final preparations had been made, we finally left. But that was only the beginning of this adventure. We did indeed have some twists and turns with the van, which was struggling to support our weight on the hills… But it was all greeted with good humor by the whole team! We finally started the hike at 10 am, on a path which was still in the morning shades. We walked our way through that side of the mountains, enjoying a view that can’t be seen from Lion’s Head. We were having such a great time together that no one realized we hiked further than necessary on the path to Signal Hill!! We then had to backtrack, but don’t worry we found our way back to Lion’s Head. As a team, we decided to keep going even if it meant walking more than what we expected. So we continued our way joyfully, cheering each other up! After everyone finally reached the top of Lion’s Head, we took the time to enjoy this amazing view under the warm sun. Dear reader, that’s how we ended up coming back at 5 pm. Instead of having a brunch together afterwards, we enjoyed some pizzas as our dinner. But that day was so great, we will only keep great memories!

Congratulations to all of our hikers who came to Africa Unite Team Building Hike! It was truly amazing to see the team spirit arose as we were making our way to Lion’s Head. You can be proud of yourselves. We are looking forward to our next adventures together!!

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AFRICA MONTH COMMEMORATIONS REPORT: CELEBRATING AFRICA’S RESILIENCE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Amid the greatest challenges of this century, the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to build Africa’s resilience and celebrating its achievements is imperative to ensure that all Africans continue making progress toward the African Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. The celebration of Africa’s resilience stems largely from all community stakeholders embracing the values of Ubuntu that enable interdependence, interconnectedness, and mutual support that is critical to mitigating the devastation of this virus. Briefly, the Africa Day commemorations enable Africa to reflect on the progress and common challenges that the continent confronts in a global environment.

Before the 25th of May 2021 commemoration, there were four Africa Friday activations in Inkwali schools leading up to the main commemoration of Africa Day. The activations were held with primary and high schools on the South Coast of Durban which included Mazibu Primary, Inkwali Primary, and Vumandaba High School where information sessions about Africa were shared with the youth of different nationalities. The information sessions came as a result that there was a huge knowledge gap of Africa and its history. Hence, the theme “Know Africa” guided these sessions.

Participants of the Africa Day celebration presenting to the group

On the 25th of May 2021, Africa Unite in partnership with the Institute of Afrikology conducted a dialogue with young people at Inkwali Primary School Hall in Inkwali rural community under Kwa Thoyana, located 56 km from Durban. The day was commemorated under the theme “Celebrating Africa’s resilience in the time of COVID-19” where youth acknowledged that the pandemic has allowed us to validate our capability to move from a tendency to be preoccupied with the quest of individual achievement to rally together with empathy and kindness to join forces in response to this existential crisis. This shift in behavior towards what matters for humanity and environmental survival was a significant achievement component in our response to COVID-19. The dialogue was attended by 150 learners from various schools of the Kwa Thoyana community (Inkwali Primary, Ophapheni Primary, Vumandaba High School).

The dialogue with young people sought to encourage youth to work together to build a caring and proud African society based on shared values and vision. Moreover, the dialogue gave young people a platform to have conversations on Africa and Africa’s culture and heritage. Youth highlighted that it was imperative to change the narrative of Africa as there have been many different types of misrepresentation of Africa. The negative narratives listed by young people included that Africans were not united, practice witchcraft, and poor. With these, it was important to change the narrative through knowledge sharing, uniting, taking pride in who we are, and respecting each other.

Since Africa Day is not a national day in South Africa, youth emphasized that local, and traditional leaders must take an active role and lead in popularizing the day. Moreover, youth and community members have a role to play in opening learning platforms that will enable information sharing about Africa and its history. Furthermore, the participants acknowledged Africa’s triumphs of continuing to be resilient despite the challenges in a time such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, they highlighted Africa’s collective obstacles which included gender-based violence, xenophobia, discrimination, the killing of albinos, racism, tribalism to mention a few. To address these, the participants argued that there was a need for effective law enforcement on gender-based violence, the need to unite, and the need for voices of traditional leaders in educating especially young people. In concluding the dialogue, young people elucidated that we need to unite as Africans as we are creative thinkers, resilient and that we have a great deal of potential yet untapped in Africa. Moreover, we need to continue contributing to the development of our continent.

After the dialogue at Inkwali Primary School Hall, we then proceeded to the Institute of Afrikology Resource Centre for the celebrations of Africa Day where we were joined by the KwaZulu Natal government led by Premier Sihle Zikalala, Inkosi Hlengwa from Kwa Thoyana Traditional Council, and the provincial KwaZulu Natal Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture under the leadership of MEC Hlengiwe Mavimbela, and. The theme for the celebrations was “The Arts, Culture, and Heritage: Levers for Building Africa We Want.”

The event created a platform for the government to feature messaging which encouraged unity among the African people despite their diverse identity and heritage. Both Inkosi and the Premier called for unity and condemned violence targeting non-South Africans and emphasized oneness and treating each other with dignity and respect in building a cohesive and Africa we want.  The Premier also emphasized the importance of being producers of our food and being suppliers and support each other as that was key to building a resilient Africa.

In conclusion, the day also had a taste of Africa displays where different nationalities which included South Africans, Congolese, Zimbabweans, Burundians, and Rwandese had an opportunity to showcase their traditional food. Also, we had a fashion parade where South African and Congolese designers showcased their collaborative work. The event also showcased South Africa’s diverse backgrounds and cultures through different art forms and to promote social cohesion. We had Burundian drummers and various South African music groups.

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AFRICA UNITE SCHOOL CLUBS LEADERSHIP CAMPS, 2021 REPORTS: WESTERN CAPE

This year’s Africa Unite School Club Camps were different from the previous years because of Covid-19 restriction, but it didn’t deprive us from having fun and enjoying a fulfilling experience. From Friday 23rd April to Sunday 9th May, the Africa Unite School Club team hosted three Leadership camps at Tshisimani Bertha House in Mowbray, Cape Town followed by our final camp at Ashton Public Combined School, a rural town two hours outside of Cape Town. 

Instead of hosting one big leadership camp for all WC schools, the team had to shorten the 4-day program to a two day capacitation workshop without an overnight stay, to avoid having super spreader events. Each “camp” brought together cabinet members from three different schools to keep the overall number of participants below 25. With this strategy, AU was able to successfully capacitate 60 learners from all our partner schools.

1. Camp: Gardens Commercial High School, Princeton Secondary School (Mitchells Plain), and Dr. Nelson Mandela High School (Nyanga) 

2. Camp: Rosendaal Secondary School (Delft), Hector Peterson FET College (Kraaifontein), and Salt River Secondary School

3. Camp: Masibambane Secondary School (Kraaifontein), Heideveld Secondary School and Portland High School (Mitchells Plain)

4. Camp: Ashton Combined Public School (Zolani, Langeberg District)

Leadership and teambuilding

The objective of the annual School Club camps is to sharpen learners’ leadership and communication skills. It is also a space for learners to discuss important issues in their schools and communities, and collectively come up with solutions that help them drive positive changes in their surroundings. Furthermore, they get to know and to different strategizing tools they can use to organise their projects and events. We were amazed by inspiring groups of young leaders!

Learners from Portland High School presenting their Community Map.

First day: learners getting to know each other, their communities and Africa Unite

When arriving, the learners were given the “What’s my Why” worksheet to fill out before doing some getting to know each other’s games and explaining why they individually chose to join AUSC. The following activity was “What’s Our Why”, for them to reflect on their purpose as a team. After that, Akhona Madikane, School Club facilitator, explained what Africa Unite is and why it exists which helped to connect their involvement in AUSC to a bigger vision. Akhona also addressed the issue of bullying at schools and the learners thought of reasons, consequences and solutions for this. Subsequently, they did an activity to identify the current school climate at their respective schools. It started with a mental walkthrough of a typical school day, after which they had to grade different areas of their schools such as Support of Diversity, Teaching Quality, Student-student / Student-Adult / Adult-Adult Relationships as well as physical and psychological safety. As a team, they then had to determine the most favorable and least favorable areas at their school to get an idea of what were the most urgent things to change. 

After lunch, the learners were invited to express their creativity by developing a role play on one to three priority areas they wanted to change in their school as well as read out their mission statement to everyone. Then it was time for some Community Mapping where learners had to geolocate the stakeholders and hot spots near their schools. Day 1 ended with an activity called the Africa Unite Idea Bank, where learners got tasked to gather at least twenty ideas for possible projects, without any limit on feasibility. This activity stimulated creativity and prepared everyone for the next day.  

Second day: precising an action plan for each Africa Unite School Clubs

During the second day, learners were given practical tools on Project Planning Basic, including how to organise a successful event, how to raise money and how to recruit more members. After receiving the theoretical input, it was then their turn to put this knowledge into practice and consider at least five projects from their AU Idea Bank that they want to organise for 2021. Each school club got tasked to develop an Action Plan for their first project and present it to the group to receive feedback. After lunch, each school club drafted a Year Plan summarizing the name of each event, the person responsible, the possible stakeholders and the date. Feedback was given after each presentation. Some really interesting and innovative projects came out of this, such as giving talks in different classes on the importance of using LGBTQI sensitive personal pronouns such as they/them. Others saw the need to fundraise and visit local orphanages to show the kids some love and attention. Day 2 was also the occasion to present AUSC’ other Programs such as the Youth Reporters Program, Career Guidance and the Social Emotional Learning Forum. 

Learners from Masibambane Secondary School presenting their Year Plan.

Highlights: role playing, engaging debates & special visitors

Since different camps were held, some particularities emerged from each one. For example, during the first camp learners had the opportunity to watch a play on immigration and during the third camp engaging debates on feminism and the use of gender pronouns arose. We also welcomed special visitors throughout the different camps, such as Mr. Mavovane, Principal of Hector Peterson High School, Mr. Zoe Nkongolo, director of Africa Unite, and Qureisha Nagdee, SA Local Programme Coordinator for Dreikonigsaktion (DKA), one of Africa Unite’s funders.

Learners were able to give feedback at the end of each camp. They enjoyed the combination of educational and physical games. Indeed, the camps were driven by activities which were always related to leadership and communication skills (La Diligence, Spot the difference, Leadership qualities, Think outside the box…). Some of the learners told us that they have learned a lot in terms of leadership, stating in particular that a leader must lead but is not a boss, that a person must also know how to delegate the work and have a good support system. They liked working as teams, even if it can by time be challenging it is something that they will encounter in other social interactions in the future. 

Proactive groups with large horizons

All in all, those young leaders formed dynamic and preemptive groups who are now ready to endorse the motto ”be the change you want to see” in their schools and communities. They are creative, engaged and full of ideas. We are awaiting with pleasure the implementation of all their projects.

Thank you to all the learners who were part of Africa Unite School Clubs Camps of 2021, and congratulations, keep up the good work! Those are the future leaders of South Africa! We are looking forward to seeing them at our future events and follow up on the progress of their projects.

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AFRICA UNITE SCHOOL CLUBS LEADERSHIP CAMPS, 2021 REPORTS: KWAZULU-NATAL

On the 28th and 29th of April 2021, Africa Unite hosted their Africa Unite School Leadership camp for the school club in KwaZulu-Natal with 19 learners 12 females and 7 males. The camp took place at Hilltop Manor in Durban North. We hosted school club members, 8 from Ikusasalentsha High School (Inanda), 10 from Lamontville High School (Lamontville), and 1 from Northlands Girls High School (Durban North) in Durban, KwaZulu Natal province. These schools are located in communities that are plagued by the high rate of teenage pregnancy, bullying, substance abuse, and lack of proper schooling infrastructure, poverty, and poor basic service delivery; from textbooks delivery to water and electricity, and even lack of proper sanitation. These factors create an overall low academic performance and in some instances lead to school violence.

Succinctly, the main objective of the school camp was to capacitate the club’s cabinets to improve their leadership skills and effectiveness as agents of change. Moreover, it opened a space for young leaders to engage on issues they are battling with at school and in their communities. In addition, the learners were capacitated to understand their roles and responsibilities as cabinet members and parliamentarians. The camp in KwaZulu Natal was facilitated by one of our peer educators, Blessing Nyuswa, and the camp learners to be innovative, critical thinking, and how to take action to drive social change in their respective schools.

The learners were given the “what’s my why” worksheet to fill out for them to better understand what they are bringing to the group as they journey together to start an inspired team. From these, some learners highlighted that it was their first time to be exposed to such leadership platforms as the exercise helped them to clearly define and understand the value they were bringing into the group and what they can learn from each other. In addition, they elucidated the challenges they had in schools which intrigued them to pursue addressing them.

The learners had an opportunity to learn more about the origins of Africa Unite and the School program to understand the work AU does and how they can link their initiatives to the objectives of the school club program. The learners had the opportunity to identify the current school climate and they had to role-play the issues. The issues displayed included drug abuse, verbal abuse by teachers, littering, bullying, lack of sporting activities, to mention a few. In mapping their communities, the learners identified assets that can be used to address the issues faced by the school, which included sports grounds, community halls, libraries, and schools. They also went on to identify the hotspots in the community which includes, crime and substance abuse hotspots. Finally, they identified stakeholders which included, Department of Social Development, South African Police Service, Department of Education, Ward Councillors, teachers, learners, and the community at large.

The learners also came up with various projects they were to do in their respective schools to address the challenges they were facing. From these, they indicated that they wanted to start with a combined anti-substance abuse sports day (focusing on ball games like netball, soccer, cricket, etc). On a sporting day, they will also have a short dialogue and presentations to raise awareness of substance abuse. The other initiatives they are looking forward to doing included having programs focusing on promoting African cultures to learn more about other African countries, clean-up programs and capacity building on minute and report writing, and on how to plan an activity.

On another note, the learners were shown the presentation on good leadership which outlined the typologies and styles of leadership. This opened a discussion on how learners understood good leadership where they defined leadership and what it entails. Following this, to further expand their understanding of the structure of the school club, the learners played a game called guess who. The functions and responsibilities of the cabinet and for the rest of the ministers were presented to the learners so that they can well understand what is expected from them. This activity allowed them to understand the structure of the cabinet, their functions, and how they worked together. After the capacitation on their portfolios, there was a discussion held on how they can curb the social ills they face in their schools and communities. They come up with possible solutions to creating awareness campaigns and events to address these issues, having educational distributional materials, inviting different stakeholders.

In concluding the training, learners outlined how they were going to execute their projects in schools and those who will be responsible for each process. Both Lamontville and Ikusasalentsha decided to do a talent show which will embrace and expose youth talent while also fundraising for the school club. The Minister of Sport, Art, and Culture, and entertainment will be responsible for this project working together with the Minister of Finance, the Principal, and the RCL. They are planning to have this talent show on the 18th of June 2021 at the Lamontville High School Sports Ground. The activity will open a platform for young people to showcase their talent, and invite well-known artists, Department of Education, Department of Social Development, Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, other schools and raise funds for the school club. Posters and school Facebook pages will be used to invite people. In closing, learners were awarded certificates of completing the AU leadership camp of 2021.

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Exploring Human Rights through self-expression

Celebration of youth leaders: an afternoon of SELF and poetry

Every Wednesday, a group of local and migrant school leaders gather online for the Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) to discuss relevant issues affecting their personal lives and communities. In acknowledgment of both Human Rights Month (March) and Sexual Harassment Awareness Month (April), Africa Unite hosted a special event on April 7th, 2021.

Our special guest, the poet, publisher, activist, and tv personality Kay-Dee Mashile welcomed the audience. In the first part, the participants focused on sexual harassment discussion and how it affects them personally and socially. The second part focused on the winners’ announcement of the Africa Unite Poetry Competition on Human Rights Day.  

Out of the 18 poetry submissions received, seven got shortlisted and received a chance to perform their spoken word live infront of the camera during the Zoom event, which saw an attendance of over 30 learners from different cultural backgrounds and provinces.  

This event was so successful that Africa Unite decided to renew it for Africa Month (May) and Refugee Month (June). Kay-Dee Mashile offered to partner with Africa Unite for the Poetry contest. She even extended an invitation to our young writers to submit their work for the next competition. The top 5 will be published in The Poetry Pulpit Journal, which comes out every month. The Journal is also recorded as a podcast every few months.

This online event brought together over 30 persons, more than half of whom have a migration background.

SELF-active discussion about sexual harassment

Every week, through the SELF program, each participant can propose a topic and moderate the debate. As an opener, Peer educator Avuzwa Ngubo facilitated a game where participants collectively had to create a poem with the first line being “No man is an Island.” Then, the youth shared their different views on sexual harassment, which led to tackling other vital subjects such as gender differences, equal rights, toxic masculinity, consent, and social media users. In the end, youth acknowledged that we are all humans who live in the same world and experience feelings. We have to help each other take accountability for what needs to be done to generate change in our communities—as a youth, being a proactive actor of change means starting in your own environment, whether with your family or friends. No action is too small if it is done intentionally.

Event’s poster: “Poetry competition on Human Rigts – Announcement of winners & original spoken word”.

Poetry Competition for Human Rights

This poetry competition was launched during Human Rights Month. It was extended outside the SELF group, and there were 18 submissions in total, from which seven were shortlisted. Those shortlisted were allowed to perform their poetry during the event. After powerful recitals and online voting via Zoom poll, the winners were finally announced as follow:

1st: Death of an African Dream, Sasikelelwa Matshayana (R500)

2nd: A thousand more tears, Natasha Muberuka (R300)

3rd: We are all born free and equal, Fayth (R200)

4th: A child has a right too, Danielle Uwacu Ndagijimana – grade 4, the youngest participant (R100)

A special moment with guest Kay-Dee Mashile

Kay-Dee Mashile joined this event to share her own experience as a poet and an activist. She gave some valuable advice to the young writers. She reminded them that blogs and social media are very significant to reach a larger audience, but she recommended only to share small parts of their poems, just enough to convey their style and still own their work. She also talked about the motivation behind writing, making some inspiring comments:

“The importance of activism is not about what we are against but who we are for.”

Writing can be used as a form of activism, but you have to know:  What are you standing for? Who are you speaking for?

All in all, we would like to thank all of our participants and are looking forward to the next event, where we expect great contributions on the topic of Africa.

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AUSC Anti-Bullying statement

19 APRIL 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BULLYING MUST STOP IN ALL LEVELS OF THE SOCIETY

Bullying is a serious challenge facing many learners across the world. School bullying often takes place in and outside of school premises. In most cases, a group of learners would isolate one student who would become vulnerable to either physical, verbal, or emotional bullying. Female learners from poor backgrounds and migrant communities are often victims of this kind of bullying. According to Crime statistics of July 2020, 345 serious assaults and 546 common assault cases were opened due to bullying in the country’s schools.

On Monday, the 12 April 2021, a video of a 15-year-old learner Lufuno Mavhungu at Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo being attacked by fellow learners went viral on social media and sparked fury among many. Mavhungu is seen being repeatedly slapped while other pupils cheered on, taking a video of the incident. Once back home, she locked herself in her room and died after allegedly overdosing on prescription pills.  She was rushed to hospital on Monday evening and was certified dead upon arrival.  

This incident indicates the failure of Ubuntu and the growing of bystanders culture in South Africa society. Bullying is a longstanding challenge and sadly has never been appropriately addressed and now resulted in a young girl taking her life.

The death of Lufuno has shocked everyone in the country. Learners from the Africa Unite School Clubs also shared their views on the seriousness of bullying in schools. They condemned the incident to ensure that no learner goes through the same experience as Lufuno went through. Below are some of their comments:

“It is painful to see how we as the future leaders have become so toxic and detrimental. It is very sad to experience the trauma we have been putting each other through in the past years. It is only now we actually come to the realization of the fact that we are as good as the perpetrators because we do not only ignore these incidents during their occurrence, but we also contribute to the victim’s demise,” said Princess Mkhwanazi, 17 years old and President of the Africa Unite School Club at the Newgate College (Hillbrow).

“Children have to die and commit suicide first; women have to be reported missing and discovered dead, days later for us to realize that there’s a problem and it needs to be fixed,” Princess added.  

“I am saddened by the news of the grade 10 learner who committed suicide because of bullying. Lufuno was ridiculed on Facebook because someone thought she was ugly. This indicates that this incident was deliberate. This shows the amount of self-hate amongst women, which is ignored in our daily lives,” said Nikita Nqwaba, grade 11 learner, Princeton High School (Cape Town).

Nikita Nqwaba added this“Lufuno, we are sorry we never heard your cries until the last day. No one deserves to go through what you went through. Rest in peace, beautiful Lufuno, and may you cry no more.”

“What happened to Lufuno shocked me! But, one thing, I asked myself, is how many learners or children have been killed because of bullying, and what can we do as the youth? What can we do as the people of this country? I feel it’s not only the youth’s responsibility but everyone’s responsibility. We need to stand against bullying and GBV; we need to know why all these things are happening and what we can do to stop them. We need to have programs that are going to be based on bullying so that it can be easy for youth to talk when they have a problem at school.”

Said  Khanyo Lose (Grade 11, Masibambane Secondary School in Kraaifontein, Cape Town)

School Club Members propose the following to the Department of Education:

  • To build the confidence of  learners starting from primary school
  • To promote activities that enhance social-emotional learning (SEL) at the school level
  • To increase the visibility of social workers at schools in disadvantaged communities
  • To explain concept of bullying to the learners in their languages as most of them do not understand its implications.
  • To create safe spaces where the learners can feel safe to report bullying.

#STOPBULLYING

The Africa Unite School Club Programme gives learners from disadvantaged backgrounds a platform to learn new skills, share their own experience with peers, sharpen their leadership skills, and promote the role of youth as equal partners in developing their schools and communities with the slogan “My school is my community“.

Contact Person: Akhona Madikane,

Cell: 0812577877

Email: akhona@africaunite.org.za

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Calling all the shots: follow up dialogue on equitable access to vaccines

On the 10th of April 2021, Africa Unite in partnership with Umoja skills development, hosted a webinar on COVID 19 vaccine efficacy which was a follow up on a previous dialogue hosted on the 13th of March 2021 engaging with the migrant and refugee community leadership. The event gathered migrant leaders from all over South Africa to discuss vaccine efficacy with a representative from Doctors without borders to understand the efficacy of new vaccines. The webinar sought to clear up any misunderstandings about Covid-19 vaccines.

We had the privilege to welcome Sister Nompumelelo Matangana from Doctors without borders.

The topics discussed included vaccine efficacy and make-up as well as the experience of a frontline worker deployed at the very beginning of the global pandemic.

Our speaker gave valuable insights into her experiences and expertise: Sister Matangana highlighted that South Africa has always been a Pro-vaccine country and has one of the most vaccine strict programs internationally. She also pointed out that vaccinating people regardless of documentation status in a country is of the utmost importance to gain “Herd Immunity” and bring this pandemic under control. Sister Matangana also stated that the failure of the medical community, civil society and the State to start educating the general public in layman’s terms about the virus and the advantages of vaccines, created the conditions for “Fake news” and false information to take hold.

Sister Matangana had recommended that the general public, civil society and the scientific community should continue to pressure the National government to firstly pressure foreign governments to waive patent rights and gain the patents to vaccine make-up in order to start manufacturing vaccines faster and cheaper as opposed to ordering them from foreign based pharmaceuticals and governments.

The floor was opened to further engage participants and the speaker on the topics discussed as well as provide recommendations.

The participants had reached consensus on a number of recommendations which are detailed below:

Firstly, it was agreed that community leaders and civil society should run information campaigns to familiarise their respective communities with the registration process for vaccines and to help acquaint communities with the healthcare workers in their regions.

Secondly, it was stated that community organs and civil society should increase the intensity of information campaigns regarding public health and the pandemic, which was a sentiment echoed from the previous dialogue.

Finally, it was stressed, with much agreement that the action group created in the first meeting should be at the forefront teaching their community about the Electronic Vaccine Data System or EVDS and dispel any misconceptions surrounding the system.

On the 10th of April 2021, Africa Unite in partnership with Umoja skills development, hosted a webinar on COVID 19 vaccine efficacy which was a follow up on a previous dialogue hosted on the 13th of March 2021 engaging with the migrant and refugee community leadership. The event gathered migrant leaders from all over South Africa to discuss vaccine efficacy with a representative from Doctors without borders to understand the efficacy of new vaccines. The webinar sought to clear up any misunderstandings about Covid-19 vaccines.

We had the privilege to welcome Sister Nompumelelo Matangana from Doctors without borders.

The topics discussed included vaccine efficacy and make-up as well as the experience of a frontline worker deployed at the very beginning of the global pandemic.

Our speaker gave valuable insights into her experiences and expertise: Sister Matangana highlighted that South Africa has always been a Pro-vaccine country and has one of the most vaccine strict programs internationally. She also pointed out that vaccinating people regardless of documentation status in a country is of the utmost importance to gain “Herd Immunity” and bring this pandemic under control. Sister Matangana also stated that the failure of the medical community, civil society and the State to start educating the general public in layman’s terms about the virus and the advantages of vaccines, created the conditions for “Fake news” and false information to take hold.

Sister Matangana had recommended that the general public, civil society and the scientific community should continue to pressure the National government to firstly pressure foreign governments to waive patent rights and gain the patents to vaccine make-up in order to start manufacturing vaccines faster and cheaper as opposed to ordering them from foreign based pharmaceuticals and governments.

The floor was opened to further engage participants and the speaker on the topics discussed as well as provide recommendations.

The participants had reached consensus on a number of recommendations which are detailed below:

Firstly, it was agreed that community leaders and civil society should run information campaigns to familiarise their respective communities with the registration process for vaccines and to help acquaint communities with the healthcare workers in their regions.

Secondly, it was stated that community organs and civil society should increase the intensity of information campaigns regarding public health and the pandemic, which was a sentiment echoed from the previous dialogue.

Finally, it was stressed, with much agreement that the action group created in the first meeting should be at the forefront teaching their community about the Electronic Vaccine Data System or EVDS and dispel any misconceptions surrounding the system.


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