South Africa celebrates the 20th Anniversary of its Constitution and as a country we have realized that our Rainbow Nation has celebrated diversity through curriculum exercise in schools and through policies, but did we really engage as a nation to build pride in our identity, our constitutional values and who we are?

Sondela Open Dialogues and Visual Art Programme is a school based participatory peer education citizenship programme aimed at developing responsible Valued Citizens, taking pride in belonging and contributing towards the development of a social capital in South Africa.

The programme is spearheaded by the Valued Citizens Initiative (VCI) in partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, Department of Arts and Culture and Gauteng Department of Education. The programme was launched in February 2015 with participation by 166 learners from 5 public high schools i.e. Forte Secondary School, Randfontein High School, Westonaria High School, Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School and TM Letlhake Secondary School. The launch took place at the Legislature’s Public Forum under the theme “In a state of economic turmoil, as citizens are we going to carry on blaming the “other” – government, foreigners, load shedding, poverty and one another – or are we going to take responsibility in creating a platform to treat self and others with dignity and honour what we can do together as citizens?”

While achieving greater social cohesion is becoming an important national priority in the National Planning Commission’s (NPC) Vision 2030, the Department of Basic Education and Department of Arts and Culture’s (DAC) National Strategy for Developing an Inclusive and Cohesive Society, it is now our duty as citizens, individually and collectively to engage in conversations and activities to construct a collective identity and a sense of shared belonging, which in turn can help nurture strong social capital and community networks developing social justice and equality of opportunity in a caring nation.

We are often tempted to blame our growing culture of violence on the legacy left by Apartheid but this is no longer an acceptable excuse.

The South African institutions, civic structures, political parties, corporate and adults need to listen to our youth. Our youth represent 18.6 million – under the age of 18 years – and therefore constitute 36% of the total population of South Africa (Statistics SA Survey 2012). When we stop listening to our youth, we condemn a part of society to have a voice, to understand, to give meaning to the now to project themselves with confidence into the future and quietly we allow anarchy to prevail. History is about telling the story of the past, it is time we create new symbols through dialogue and art to enable an inclusive economic growth in our country where we all contribute, understand and move forward together.

Education is the cornerstone in shaping our society so Valued Citizens Initiative has decided once more to drive a creative process which will serve the cause. Through open dialogues driven in public high schools and visual art, the mind of the youth will be understood, the voice of the youth will be heard and this nation building exercise will culminate by art exhibitions and the celebration of our constitutional values.
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My Identity Document deepening my sense of Belonging

iVALUE Identity programme in support of “Schools Rights and Lights Campaign”, in partnership with La Voix de l’Enfant and Engie Foundation, is already enabling 2069 learners above 16 from 12 public high schools to get their Identity Document and become active citizens in Gauteng.

Currently, many school children above the age of 16 in South Africa still lack access to their vital life documents such as birth certificates, and Identity Document. As a result, our children lose their sense of identity and face tremendous difficulties when wanting to exercise their rights such as enrolment in schools, writing Matric examinations, right to vote and enjoy social benefits such as being able to purchase a cell phone, search and apply for employment and lead their lives. At Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School, the principal is grateful as she was used to have a tremendous drop out of learners just because they did not have access to this vital right to an Identity Document and some felt at risk as foreigners.


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