Youth ac­tivism and lit­er­acy

CityPress - - Voices - Thulile Seleka voices@city­press.co.za Seleka is head of pro­grammes at Nal’ibali To join Nal’ibali’s FUNda Leader move­ment, visit nal­ibali.org and nal­ibali.mobi, email info@nal­ibali.org or call the call cen­tre on 021 180 4080

Some­thing in­ter­est­ing has re-emerged in our coun­try, which car­ries enor­mous in­flu­ence and in­spi­ra­tion: youth power. We re­mem­ber traces of it from the 1976 up­ris­ings and early 1980s, but in 2015, at a crit­i­cal time, youth ac­tivism awak­ened once again and univer­sity stu­dents prac­ti­cally brought the coun­try to a stand­still with #FeesMustFall.

Jane Lyne-Kritzinger, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Youth Dy­namix, ex­plains that pow­er­ful youth ac­tivism move­ments like the one we wit­nessed in Oc­to­ber 2015 will be­come the trend. She ex­plains fur­ther that young peo­ple will eas­ily unify to cre­ate a force to be reck­oned with, not just on cam­puses, but through­out the coun­try through so­cial me­dia – the dig­i­tal chan­nel they grew up with.

Young peo­ple are quickly gain­ing mo­men­tum and be­com­ing cat­a­lysts in their fam­i­lies, lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and so­ci­ety. With a newly dis­cov­ered con­fi­dence and voice, they are able to quickly con­nect around top is­sues af­fect­ing so­ci­ety and act as self-ap­pointed lead­ers who are able to change the game and the at­mos­phere. De­ter­mined to reimag­ine and find solutions to prob­lems in the most fear­less ways, de­spite their cir­cum­stances, they find com­fort and strength in col­lec­tive im­pact.

Ac­cord­ing to Man­dela Rhodes scholar Zuk­iswa Mqolomba, we have been shown that South Africa’s young peo­ple can be a force for so­cial change when their en­er­gies are har­nessed through con­scious ac­tivism.

Launched mid-2016 and now a net­work of over 2 900 in­di­vid­u­als na­tion­wide, the Nal’ibali-pow­ered FUNda Leader move­ment places it­self at the cen­tre of this pow­er­ful re­source, to re­spond to the lit­er­acy chal­lenge in South Africa. Be­ing a FUNda Leader is about tak­ing ac­tion in key ar­eas that are par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent this Youth Month: lan­guage, iden­tity and the right to learn. By pro­vid­ing ac­cess to lit­er­acy ma­te­ri­als in dif­fer­ent South African lan­guages, as well as train­ing (in­clud­ing men­tor­ship and sup­port), the move­ment is sup­port­ing young peo­ple in cre­at­ing pos­i­tive lit­er­acy change.

To win at lit­er­acy change on a large scale, we need to tap into the largest youth power re­source we have. Young peo­ple as par­ents, stu­dents, pro­fes­sion­als, com­mu­nity lead­ers and vol­un­teers can play a cen­tral role as in­ter­ac­tive lit­er­acy role mod­els.

When chil­dren see oth­ers around them us­ing lit­er­acy in daily life – for ex­am­ple, mod­el­ling mean­ing­ful uses of read­ing and writ­ing – they be­gin to learn about the func­tional value of print.

But it is more than just mod­el­ling. Me­di­a­tion is at the cen­tre of hu­man ex­is­tence and in lit­er­acy learn­ing is the mean­ing that is cre­ated be­tween a child and another more ca­pa­ble per­son. When chil­dren are coached and men­tored by those who are more ex­pe­ri­enced, and be­come in­volved in and com­mu­ni­cate around a shared ac­tiv­ity, specif­i­cally one that the chil­dren are keen to be in­volved in such as the read­ing and shar­ing of sto­ries in lan­guages they un­der­stand, the chil­dren join in and are mo­ti­vated to learn to read and write them­selves.

How­ever, align­ing with our young peo­ple re­quires com­mit­ting ad­e­quate re­sources, skills, ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, and a clear frame­work to guide par­tic­i­pa­tion and sus­tained in­volve­ment. With the FUNda Leader net­work, young peo­ple are be­gin­ning to lead the read­ing cul­ture rev­o­lu­tion and are cre­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant shifts in the lives of their chil­dren, sib­lings, ex­tended fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, cam­puses and work­places.

It is pos­si­ble to strive to­wards health­ier com­mu­ni­ties and a thriv­ing so­ci­ety when peo­ple stand to­gether as a col­lec­tive and sup­port youth ac­tivism. Young peo­ple are then en­abled to move for­ward with even more de­ter­mi­na­tion – the ball is in their hands. But so­ci­ety at large needs to play an ac­tive role in cre­at­ing space and en­abling young peo­ple to be re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens.

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