On the 18th of May 2013 Africa Unite was invited by the African Refugee Education, Skills Training and Advocacy (ARESTA) as one of the panel of analysts at the high school debate held in Maitland high school. The event which was conducted under the theme ‘kicking out racism, xenophobia and discrimination in our community’ witnessed 10 high schools from Cape Town engaging in a heated debate in an attempt to capture the diverse views of students in relation to social discrimination between native and non-South African citizens.
Participating schools were: Oscar Mpheta High School, Sthembile Matiso High School, Maitland High, Intsebenziswano Secondary School, New Eilsben, Zisukhanyo High School, Vuyiseka High school, Phakama High School, Phillipi High School, Phandulwazi High school, Sinethemba High School.
Four interesting and relevant topics were posed for the students to exchange their views. The first question was, ‘Are foreign nationals stealing our jobs,’ followed by, ‘Foreign nationals do not want to live in townships,’ then, ‘Is getting married to a South African citizen the only way for foreigners to get legal documents to stay and work,’ lastly, ‘is celebrating cultural diversity a tool to integrate and accept different nationalities and cultures.’
Interesting perspectives were raised especially in relation with the first question by student’s school representatives and those who made up the crowd. There seemed to be a general consensus between foreign students who also were representing their schools and a number of native students on the notion that foreign nationals are not stealing jobs from South African citizens. Most of them believed that rather education was a major vehicle for social mobility and if one capitalized and dedicated his or her time, chances of employment become inevitable despite your race, ethnicity or nationality. Africa Unite Director, gave the panel of analysts comment on the topic. He opined that even if all foreign nationals were to be removed from South Africa it would not be an antidote to the unemployment rate amongst native citizens of the country, rather he alluded that a status is achieved not ascribed, one has to work hard and enjoy the fruits of their efforts. The explanation shaded more light to the students in relation to the aspects of unemployment, xenophobia and economic equality.
The other topics were done well with another relevant point being raised by a Maitland High School, female, South African student who gave an example of how her sister was happily married to her Congolese husband. This was an attempt to explain the point that foreign nationals do not always marry South African nationals to get legal South African documents, but love is blind and it cuts across all borders and differences that might exist between mankind. This view was further reinforced by the panel of analysts’ team who gave an example of the former president of South Africa Mr. Nelson Mandela who chose to marry a Mozambican national.
The debate ended on a high note and proved educational to all the people who were present, as it managed to capture the views of scholars on racism, xenophobia and any other forms of social exclusion.