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30 March 2021 | Story Dikgapane Makgetha | Photo Supplied
Social Work students at the UFS are working with the relevant stakeholders in an Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning project to promote and respect children’s rights.

The protection of children’s rights is the principal achievement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda. Emphasis has always been on the promotion and respect of children’s rights. Since the SDGs are grounded in a child rights-based approach, the University of the Free State (UFS) Social Work students – by engaging in a multi-disciplinary methodology – involve all the relevant stakeholders in their Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning module project. 

The social partners, which included the South African Police Service (Child Protection Unit), the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Health, faith-based organisations, and other children’s advocacy agents, were involved from inception until the apex launch of the project. 

Access to basic human rights

In their exit level, fourth-year Social Work students participate in community work practicums, which incorporates the theoretical development process in adherence to the objectives of their community work. The initial phase of the project involved the situation analysis exercise, which the students implemented through collaboration with the Rekgonne Primary School action committee. 

The outcome of the survey indicated that some learners were exposed to physical and sexual abuse. It was also found that they did not have access to basic human rights such as education, health care, and social grants due to the absence of the required legal documents. From the interactive discussions that took place during the launch, it emerged that some children do not have birth certificates required for school registration and access to social grants. 

Through the students’ community project, a platform was created where important skills and information could be shared among all important role players (who are in different professions and guardians of children’s human rights). It is believed that since learners are spending more hours in school, educators would be the primary detectors to notice signs of negligence and potentially adverse circumstances among their learners.

Role players collaborate to make a difference

Through the scholarship of engagement, students succeeded in engaging with the community to attend to societal challenges (violated children’s rights). In order to realise the outcome of the project, continuous collaboration among all role players must be sustained. All parties adopted a resolution to create safe environments both at school and at home by supporting families and caregivers.

Government partners that participated were determined to strengthen protection systems and improve child welfare, reinforcing the implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.  Educators were empowered and supported in the mandate of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC). This is an initiative that involves stakeholders in improving the quality of education for all children and addresses issues of safety and well-being for all children. 

News Archive

UFS study finds initiation does not build character
2015-06-24

Photo: Canva.com

Initiation at schools and school hostels does not build character or loyalty. On the contrary, it is a violation of human dignity and the rights of children.

This is the opinion of researchers from the University of the Free State’s Faculty of Education after an exploratory study of initiation practices in schools.

Although the use of initiation in schools and school hostels is forbidden by the Regulations to Prohibit Initiation Practices in Schools, the study found that this practice is still widely evident in schools. The study also found that, in some cases, teachers and/or principals take part.

In the study, led by Dr Kevin Teise from the Faculty of Education, it was found that physical deeds and even violence and emotional degradation were inflicted under the guise of ‘initiation’.

The study was discussed recently during a panel discussion between the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Law, and the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice.

The ‘initiation activities’ that take place during school hours ranged from carrying senior learners’ bags or doing other favours for them, handing over their food or food money, doing senior learners’ homework, and looking down when they speak to senior learners.

In school hostels, it was found that learners were expected to do humiliating things, and were also subjected to physical demands and even violence. Learners pointed out that they were smeared and beaten, their heads pushed into toilets, they had to bath or shower in cold water, they had to eat strange things, and they were prevented from sleeping.

Dr Teise says initiation practices are a general phenomenon in the schools and school hostels that took part in the investigation. Newcomers were subjected to silly and innocent practices, but also to physically and emotionally degrading, and even dangerous ones, before and after school, and during breaks and sports- and cultural gatherings.

“The study’s findings give every indication that the constitutional principles on which the policy document, Regulations to Prohibit Initiation Practices in Schools, is modelled, are not being put into practice and respected at these schools. Policy documents and school rules are pointless if learners, old pupils, parents, teachers, and the broad community consider initiation an acceptable behaviour that is, ostensibly, an inseparable part of school or hostel tradition and of the maturation and/or team-building processes.”

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