Cape Town - The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in partnership with the Department of Basic Education launched the Schools Democracy Programme in an effort to foster active citizenry among young people throughout the country.
The Schools Democracy Programme, which has a focus week from April 25-29, is to coincide with Freedom Day, commemorated on April 27.
The programme aims to encourage and attract young people to participate in electoral activities, specifically to register and exercise their constitutional and democratic right to vote.
Learners across the country will engage in civic education and electoral registration activities.
The campaign, which has been running for the past six years, took a two-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will now resume and be rolled out at schools across all provinces, said the commission.
The commission signed a 5-year Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), effective from March 1, 2019. The agreement is now in its third year of its 5-year term.
“The agreement is aimed at jointly conducting and facilitating educational and electoral projects of common interest,” said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
“The IEC as an election management body has a number of programmes that relate to electoral democracy, designed for facilitation through schools, which are legally owned and overseen by the Department of Basic Education and Provincial Education Departments in all nine provinces.”
Despite making up the majority of the South African population, young people’s participation in the elections remains low, with the commission attempting to address this through the Schools Democracy Programme and the Tertiary Institutions Voter Education Campaign.
The commission’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo, said: “Empowering the young citizens of South Africa with knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for active citizenship, and encouraging them to register and vote is critical to nurturing our young democracy. This is supported by research that shows that once people have voted once, they usually continue to vote in future elections.”
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Millicent Merton said the Schools Democracy Programme was not rolled out at Western Cape schools, but WCED had worked with the Provincial Electoral Commission before major elections to bring awareness to learners.
“Democracy and democratic processes are captured in the curriculum, so it is dealt with,” Merton said.
The programme will be rolled out in the Western Cape next week.