We maximized the different linking and connecting to opportunities available each day, at Howard College campus, from 30 January to 3 February 2017. As a result of this, we have a partnership with Freedoms South Africa, an organisation which focuses on addressing social justice issues, expungements and creating awareness of the various Freedoms (and associated responsibilities) which people have as citizens. With them, we appealed to law students to join our Y-Justice programme, allowing them to gain experience with real-world cases and facilitating a greater understanding of the law.
Further activities included experimenting with a power space called the Conversation Circle. Using a student common area, we engaged students about what it meant for them to be active citizens and how they can make a positive change in their communities. We identified students who were unsure about citizenship, to hear solutions from their peers and share experiences and thoughts. This sparked many discussions around awareness about rights and responsibilities, reporting of crime, public service and how students can achieve the #UniversityWeWant enroute to the #AfricaWeWant. We further conducted a student survey about civic responsibilities based on the YMCA Subject 2Citizen Civic Competence manual. Participants were asked the question: “Are you an active citizen?” We feel that many people left campus with a more informed answer than what they came in with, thus the question shall persist throughout the year.
Another power space called the “Songs of Africa Drum Circle” held on a Wednesday and Friday allowed for creative- inspired dialogue. With a desire to connect students to other parts of Africa, we shared songs from Kenya and Madagascar. As drums beats, chants and songs filled the air, attention slowly grew on our collective (especially on Friday). Participating students learned and sang other African songs like “Kuliko Jana” (More Than Yesterday), a Swahili song and “Afaka Aho” (I Am Free), a Malagasy song. The essence of the African spirit was tangible. This created the platform to discuss the aspirations of Agenda 2063, how it connected with them and how we, as Africans, are the executors of this agenda.
It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In our case, the journey of a thousand students begins with one student at a time. Even though campus was full of students’ orientation and sorting out administrative issues, with other societies competing for their attention, we gained more interest in our cause. Our power spaces encouraging participation and promoting a greater call for change. Work is still needed to engage our existing members to participate, as their attendance was lower than previous years. However, joining together with the members which we aim to recruit together with practicing our principles, we can influence more positive changes within our YMCA, our campus and in our country.
Today is already a better day than yesterday. For in today, there are more people who know about the UKZN Student YMCA, than yesterday. Understanding our civic personal freedoms promotes active civic competence.
Source: Matthew Rindel on behalf of the UKZN Student YMCA