The 2022 School Democracy Programme – a joint project between the Electoral Commission of South Africa and the Department of Basic Education to promote electoral democracy among learners – was launched in Ga-Segonyana, Kuruman in the Northern Cape.
The launch was held at the Rekgaratlhile High School in Kuruman.
As part of the project, now in its ninth year, thousands of learners in schools across South Africa will engage in civic and democracy education and voter registration activities. The launch takes place ahead of the programme’s focus week of 25 to 29 April 2022, chosen each year to coincide with Freedom Day.
“It is apt that, as part of the national celebration of Freedom Month, our efforts to get young South Africans to play a part in creating their own future reaches a zenith through this intensely focused School Democracy Week. Our goal is to create a new generation of active citizens, proud to register, participate in elections and begin to shape their own future. This programme is about entrenching the values and rights of our Constitution and promoting responsible and active citizenship among all South Africans,” the Electoral Commission’s Provincial Electoral Officer for the Northern Cape, Bonolo Modise.
“Empowering the young citizens of South Africa with the knowledge, skills and attitudes 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, they usually continue to vote in future elections,” Modise added.
Deputy Minister for Basic Education, Dr Makgabo Reginah Mhaule, who delivered the keynote address, said the School Democracy Week was a launch pad to a broader continuous Democracy Education Programme, which is offered at schools in Human Rights and Values Education as part of Life Orientation.
Dr Mhaule said that, during the School Democracy Week, the Department of Basic Education and the Electoral Commission would collaborate in different provinces to embark on a campaign that aims to reinforce the curriculum offering on human rights, democracy and civic education.
The Deputy Minister called on the basic education sector to reflect on the hard-to-shift violent practice of corporal punishment in our schools.
“South Africa recognizes that corporal punishment is an inhumane method of consequence management, which has apartheid connotations. It undermines the democratic gains of the country. It includes any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light, as well as non-physical forms of punishment that are cruel and degrading,” she said.
“Any corporal punishment violates children’s right to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity, and their rights to health, development, education and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“The education laws in South Africa have declared corporal punishment illegal. Freedom Month is therefore utilized to make a public call to end violence against children and End Corporal Punishment.
“As we commemorate Freedom Day, let us redouble our efforts to end the injustices wherever they emerge. This includes intensifying efforts to end violence against children – and to end corporal punishment. This is our contribution as a sector to the overall child protection narrative and real celebration of democracy. These are all the social ills that we should keep in mind as hindrances over the attainment of a true democratic state.”
Schools Democracy Week was first held in 2013 following the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Commission and the Department of Basic Education, and is aimed at increasing youth participation in electoral democracy.
For more details on School Democracy Week programme and material, please visit www.elections.org.za or http://www.education.gov.za