South Africa is a host country for many migrants from other African countries and most of the immigrants in the country have fled their countries of origin due to multiple reasons (war, dictatorship, famine, violence) with the hope that they find this country a more clement land.
School club pupils playing the migration game
Nonetheless, in the past couple of years, with the influx of migrants growing, there has been a brew of animosities between the locals and foreign nationals in South Africa. Migrants have been confronted with a ray of discrimination and violent acts such as xenophobic or Afrophobic attacks from the local South Africans.
Post-apartheid schools in South Africa have an explicit mandate to redress past discrimination and are the most strategic sites of implementation of the government strategy to foster nation-building and social cohesion. The reluctance of colleagues and parents of the learners to engage in these difficult topics often adds fuel to local violence. Schools rarely provide the necessary platform for learners to engage on xenophobia and other discrimination topics.
Considering this background, we need to assess how learners, teachers and the broader community can engage with the topic of migration. Therefore, as a response to this question and to assist with combating xenophobia, Africa Unite has developed a migration game where participants of the game step into the shoes of a migrant to be acquainted with the experiences and challenges of people moving into South Africa face, as well as the different reasons why people migrate. This game aims to theoretically and practically educate young people on critically understanding sensitive issues that South Africa and Africa as a whole is faced with. It is a great opportunity and valuable, educative lesson which will help breaking down stereotypes and xenophobic sentiments.
Henceforth, on the 29th of February, we held a migration game session at Africa Unite office in Cape Town with 17 of our School Club leaners and 4 learners from Salt River High School and 3 from Gardens High School; partners of Africa Unite who have participated in our Social cohesion programs including the Anti-Xenophobia School Summit.
A total of 24 young learners participated in this session (20 females and 4 Males). During the session, the learners were able to express their opinions on various issues related to migration, (refugee integration, xenophobia, the post-apartheid period and its consequences in society, etc.)
The session started off with an icebreaker which also allowed the learners to introduce to each other and start engaging regardless of their different schools. Thereafter the game initiated with all teams being consisting of locals and foreign nationals. Our two facilitators started by explaining the game and its purposes to the two teams.
After a series of debates and complaints from learners whose characters were consistently being sent to Lindela (where foreign nationals are placed before rerouting to their countries due to not having the correct documents) the winners with the correct documents finally made it to South Africa and received the adequate asylum seeker or refugee status.
Overall, the engagements throughout the game were fruitful as many migration testimonies were shared and all learners were thoroughly educated on migration and one’s journey migrating from one country to another.
Although the game had finished, and a winner crowned, the learners continued discussing issues which shed light during the session, these ranged from:
1.Opening of borders in Africa?
Learners mostly agreed that Africa should be more like Europe, regarding how people can travel freely from country to country. While also addressing the contradiction how borders are essentially decided by European colonisers during the scramble for Africa.
2.Whether or not South Africa is welcoming?
- A foreign national learner expressed that the South African government is welcoming, but South Africans are not.
- Learners acknowledged how political leader’s xenophobic comments trigger xenophobic attacks in various places in the country.
- Learners stressed how xenophobia was a class issue,
- Lastly, a learner raised an interested point which should be debated further, she expressed” Why are foreign nationals in South Africa being forced to assimilate instead of being accepted for who they are and their various cultures and ethnicities?
Moreover, towards the end of the session, the learners were separated into two groups: one group represented the South African government and the other one represented migrants and refugees. The learners were instructed to express themselves on what should be changed in South African society.
One of the Schools club pupils presenting which changes South Africa should make in its migration policies
Here are some suggestions from the students:
- South African government must respect its migration laws
- The government should integrate refugees into society and should also raise awareness about migration among the local population to avoid xenophobic attacks.
- The government needs to put in place ways for people to live together, to make certain places which are essentially of the upper class more accessible to everyone.
- More job opportunities for the migrants in South Africa is essential.
- Political Leaders need to be regulated on the information they share as leadership.
Consequently, the day was very constructive and fruitful for the learners and for the facilitators. We are looking forward to hosting more sessions throughout 2020.
We would like to thank all the school’s officials for their continuous support in exposing learners to various learning platforms and our peer educator and creator of the game; Leo Fortaillier for creating such an educative board game.