Born frees make SA proud

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

During the apartheid era, young South Africans used to secretly flee into exile to be trained in politics, guerrilla tactics, reorganize and consolidate the activities of the liberation struggle, writes Nthambeleni Gabara.

Today things have changed. When, young South Africans jet out of the country to share with the world how a democratic South Africa is bringing together a nation which was pitted against one another into the unifying streams of non-racial democracy and nation building, it is government that is facilitating their travelling arrangements.

Recently, the Department of Arts and Culture in partnership with the Nelson Mandela children’s Fund gave eight learners from the Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School in Pimville, Soweto, a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent the country at the Children’s Parliament session in Paris, France.

The 12-year-old born free ambassadors made presentations at the Parliament session, attended by about 500 young children - mainly from France - under the theme: “Freedom, Equality and Fraternity.”

However, the young South Africans also used the international platform to share their memories of the liberation struggle suffered by the generations before them in honour of former President Nelson Mandela who is still receiving medical treatment in a Pretoria hospital for a recurring lung infection.

Needless to say, the audience, which also included, French President Francois Hollande, National Parliament President, Claude Bartolone, as well as the Ministers of Education and International Affairs gave them a rapturous standing ovation.

Pumla Mabilo, the primary School headmaster who also accompanied the learners said after selecting the eight learners they gave them a task to go and do research about the theme.

Mabilo said when the young South Africans were asked to walk into the French National Assembly with Hollande, Bartolone and the two Ministers; they were looking uneasy and nervous.

“I told them not to allow stage fright to tarnish the image of their country and the legacy of Madiba, so hearing them telling the audience that the colours on our flag tell a story that South Africa is a rainbow nation, with no more racial discrimination was exciting.

“Remember, they were not here during the apartheid era, but these kids were able to tell the South African liberation struggle story as if they were there and I said to myself as a country, we need to continue holding to the values of Madiba of peace, love and harmony.

“It’s only leaders who are leading a nation that can be given an opportunity or be received in that form, not anybody; to me it has shown that South Africa is an important country in the eyes of the world,” she said.

Grade 7 learner, Nokubonga Ndlovu, who made the presentation at the French National Assembly said: “I was frightened when they asked us to walk with President Hollande, but I did not want those Child Parliamentarian’s to undermine me and my country, then I said to myself, today I will show them that I am coming from the country of Nelson Mandela.

“Part of my speech was in their language (French), telling them that in my country everyone has the right to pursue happiness in their own way as long as they don't violate the rights of others.

Ndlovu said she also told the child Parliamentarians that people in her country, whether black or white, young or old, male or female, are guaranteed the right to be treated equally and fairly.

“I told them that equality is about giving everybody an equal chance and that the freedom which Mandela and others fought for consists of discipline and selfless service to others.  

According to the school principal, the country is moving in the right direction in terms of grooming visionary future leaders, but she said the social sciences should also be prioritised on the country’s education system.

There was a standing ovation at the end of Ndlovu’s presentation which told me that people really appreciated the future leaders we are currently grooming as a nation.

They also emphasised the importance of a rainbow nation, and said that as young South Africans they strongly condemn xenophobic attacks.

“If we can have a very strong base with life skills at our schools, I’m telling you South Africa will be within the G20, I don’t know which country will be taken out, I’m not saying there would be G21, and we would be within G20,” she said.

The school where Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is a former student is currently faced with the challenge of overcrowding.

However, Mabilo said: “Understanding where we come from, you can’t compromise the education of an African child.

“Ours is to fight an intellectual battle, but not a war of bloodshed, we can no longer go back and be colonised when we can think. What the French is capable of doing, we can also do it as proudly South Africans.”

Bhekisisa Radebe who also accompanied the kids said: “I am very proud of these learners, the trip did not only boost their moral and self-esteem going forward, but it will also help change them to live as exemplary leaders at the school and their respective communities.

“As a school, we’ve decided that we need to begin to develop different topics which they will share with other learners at the assembly.”

The eight (three boys and five girls) are few of the learners who voluntarily attend the French class at the school conducted by Radebe who is also acting Deputy Principal.   

Arts and Culture Minister, Paul Mashatile said this is a clear indication that government is more committed to the development of an informed, effective and responsible born frees.

Mashatile said the African National Congress led government fully understanding that democracy is not a "machine that would go off itself," but must be consciously reproduced, one generation after another.

“Democracy requires active participation from all, including our most important citizens, our young.

“This programme gives them a valuable opportunity to raise their voices on key issues, to debate and discuss how better to improve aspects of freedom, democracy and liberty.

“They also get to share their experiences and aspirations for the future with other children from around the world,” he said.

The Children’s Parliament and the South Africa Season in France form part of the Department of Arts and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy strategy, which aims to raise the profile of the arts, culture and heritage sector within the country and abroad, in an effort to create jobs, open up new markets and build sustainable livelihoods for those in the creative industries.

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