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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. 

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Prof Antjie Krog speaks on verbalising revulsion and the collusion of men
2015-06-26

From the left are Prof Lucius Botes, UFS: Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities; Prof Helene Strauss, UFS: Department of English; Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, UFS: Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies; Prof Antjie Krog, UCT: Department Afrikaans and Dutch; Dr Buhle Zuma, UCT: Department of Psychology. Both Prof Strauss and Dr Zuma are partners in the Mellon Foundation research project.

“This is one of the bitterest moments I have ever endured. I would rather see my daughter carried away as a corpse than see her raped like this.”

This is one of 32 testimonies that were locked away quietly in 1902. These documents, part of the NC Havenga collection, contain the testimonies of Afrikaner women describing their experiences of sexual assault and rape at the hands of British soldiers during the South African War.

This cluster of affidavits formed the foundation of a public lecture that Prof Antjie Krog delivered at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus on Tuesday 23 June 2015. The lecture, entitled ‘They Couldn’t Achieve their Goal with Me: Narrating Rape during the South African War’, was the third instalment in the Vice-Chancellor’s Lecture Series on Trauma, Memory, and Representations of the Past. The series is hosted by Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies at the UFS, as part of a five-year research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Verbalising revulsion

The testimonies were taken down during the last two months of the war, and “some of the women still had marks and bruises on their bodies as evidence,” Prof Krog said. The victims’ words, on the other hand, struggled to express the story their bodies told.

What are the nouns for that which one sees? What words are permissible in front of men? How does one process revulsion verbally? These are the barriers the victims – raised with Victorian reserve – faced while trying to express their trauma, Prof Krog explained.

The collusion of men

When the war ended, there was a massive drive to reconcile the Boers and the British. “Within this process of letting bygones be bygones,” Prof Krog said, “affidavits of severe violations by white men had no place. Through the collusion of men, prioritising reconciliation between two white male hierarchies, these affidavits were shelved, and, finally, had to suffer an embargo.”

“It is only when South Africa accepted a constitution based on equality and safety from violence,” Prof Krog said, “that the various levels of deeply-rooted brutality, violence, and devastation of men against the vulnerable in society seemed to burst like an evil boil into the open, leaving South African aghast in its toxic suppurations. As if, for many decades, we did not know it was there and multiplied.”

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