By Charles Marriott
Every year on the 16th of June, South Africa commemorates Youth Day in honor of all the young people, mainly students, who lost their lives during the Soweto Uprisings. The commemoration is informed by a difficult and painful history – a history characterized by sacrifice – and the legacy of that history is still evident today in our flawed education system. However, as we look to the future of youth in this country, it’s important that we take a moment to recognize the small, but significant victories in South Africa’s youth development. The following story, from one of our BRIDGE community members, is one example of such a victory. Read on!
In one part of my life I facilitate leadership development in a Principals’ Community of Practice for Bridge. In another part of my life, I facilitate emotional intelligence development in youth and educators.
On June 16th, DELIVER (an NPO I direct) ran workshops for 50 matrics from Daliwonga Secondary, Soweto. Contrary to what often happens on this day each year, it wasn’t grandstanding, it wasn’t playing youth politics, it wasn’t trying to win points for this or that party, and it wasn’t nostalgia.
Instead we invited youth to connect with their potential by reflecting on some timeless values: sacrifice, voice, courage, belief, commitment – some of the values at the centre of the 1976 uprising. Values still lie at the centre of youth’s success in 2017. For over 3 hours the 12th graders played games, shared testimony and faced some tough truths. Unknowingly, they grappled with and practised the 7Rs: responsibility, resourcefulness, risk-taking, resilience, relationship, reflection and reasoning.
The 7Rs lies at the heart of Naledi, a methodology DELIVER has been using for over 7 years. The method centres on a commitment to helping youth and educators manifest their natural star quality, to build the behavioural foundations for a successful education. This is not easy work, but essential for sustainability.
On the day of the 16th, young South Africans did what so many have done with DELIVER before: they let go of their masks and dared to be real, they found the courage to be honest – about the pain and habits that stand in their way, and in doing so, they discovered some new found freedom and possibility for growth.
We love this work because it focuses on quality and lasting change. It’s not Maths or English, it doesn’t appear in the DBE’s quantitative measurements, but it fosters a character development that takes youth so much further than Matric. It takes educators so much further than just a job. We love it because we see people authentically connecting, often for the first time. On the 16th we loved this work again, because youth caught a glimpse of who they could be, because they were willing to sacrifice their comfort zone for some insight into their future.
Thanks to Daliwonga for supporting the process. We can’t do this work without such partnerships. Thanks to the 50 students who showed up and were open to learning in a whole new way. Thanks to those who fed the 50 – you know who you are.