A shift was made from the traditional prayer and memorial lecture to a focus on social cohesion and education . With this in mind a secondary school was invited to bring 100 learners to the Phoenix Settlement for a programme.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” was the message that was highlighted by three movies.

The importance of the message was that the message does not prescribe, it allows you to decide what is the change that you wish to see. But it does insist that you can only achieve that change by starting with yourself. If you can do it others can. If you refuse to do it then why expect others to do it?

Of the three movies, the first was on Gandhiji, Martin Luther King and a less known person Diasaku Ikeda. Rosa Parks was also featured in the civil rights movement in the USA. The film gives a number of historic facts important for history students but also emphasises the importance of nonviolence and unity among all.

After this 25 minute movie learners were asked to come up and say what one thing in the film impressed them most.

At first they were shy but after some persuasion 4 learners came up and said that they were impressed with:

  1. The idea that we have to change ourselves before we ask others to do so.
  2. The idea of nonviolence and peace
  3. The idea of not to differentiate on the basis of race religion and gender and
  4. That learning about our history was important.

The second movie was based on the song “What a beautiful world” and although we see beauty we also see the horrors of the world and the question we ask is, is it really a beautiful world.   There were some very horrific scenes of war and slaughter of people and children.

It was meant to jolt us into reality about our present situation in the world and to begin to think of what we can do to change our world.

The third was a documentary on human rights day, 21 March and gave a brief background to the day as well as emphasised the responsibility that goes with rights. It was a short documentary to trigger further discussion on what our role should be in the promotion of human rights and responsibilities

After the three videos the group of about 90 students was divided into 9 groups and a tenth group comprising some of the elderly people who attended the session from the community. Each group was asked to discuss three questions:

  1. What changes are necessary for us to have a better life
  2. What three things can each of us do individually to help the process for the changes to take place
  3. What three things can we do collectively so that these changes happen.

Responses from the groups:

  1. What changes are necessary for us to have a better life?
  1. Social cohesion issues:
  2. Equality among all and non- judgmental attitude
  3. Respect for all
  4. Stop discrimination
  5. Respect other people’s choices
  6. We must stop racism
  7. We need to start changing the way we look at people in order that we do not look down on people no matter what the differences maybe- race, colour, class, gender or religion
  8. Issues of violence:
  9. Try and remove thugs and rapists through better policing
  10. Remove child abuse
  11. Stop violence
  12. Sexual harassment must stop
  13. Addictions:
  14. Remove alcohol and drug abuse by children
  15. Education:
  16. Improve and provide quality education
  17. Work harder
  18. Become more responsible in order to succeed
  19. Environment:
  20. Create a better environment through control of environmental degradation
  21. Make a better future for the next generation
  22. Economic:
  23. Remove poverty
  24. We need skilled workers to develop our country
  1. What three things can each of us do individually to help the process for the changes to take place
  1. Social Cohesion:
  2. We can begin to respect one another
  3. We can treat all equally
  4. Respect other people’s beliefs and cultures
  5. Stop judging other people by their skin colour, looks or gender
  6. Violence:
  7. We can be less violent
  8. Let us stop war
  9. Stop abuse
  10. Stop Rape
  11. To encourage and help others when they need help to keep peace
  12. Make sure that Taxi drivers do not drive fast in our areas because children’s lives are in danger.
  13. Help people living with disabilities and make a safe environment for them
  14. Education:
  15. Each individual could form groups to encourage our young generation to get to know about our history and about the people who were involved in the struggle
  16. Educate uneducated people
  17. To motivate one another to attend school regularly
  18. We can be inspired by our leaders such as Gandhi, King, Dube
  19. Let us be the change we wish to see in the world
  20. Help, encourage, inspire others
  21. Obey the rules of the country
  22. Environment:
  23. Recycle
  24. Keep city clean
  25. Inspire each other through own example
  26. Addictions:
  27. Help to make sure that drug dealings do not occur in our areas
  1. What three things can we do collectively so that these changes happen.
  1. Organise:
  2. To communicate with communities and to unite and stand together
  3. Change is possible if everyone wants change and agrees on it.
  4. Youth must stick to education attend school regularly
  5. Build:
  6. Set up rehab centres for drug addicts
  7. Open community services for those abused and destitute
  8. Community action:
  9. Encourage everyone to think about their future and to forget about peer pressure.
  10. Unite and stand for justice
  11. Unite and work with the police force to fight crime
  12. More job creation can defeat poverty
  13. Values:
  14. Girls should stop wearing short dresses so that sexual harassment can be curbed.
  15. We have to recognise that people have changed and know the mistakes their forefathers made during apartheid
  16. We must not undermine other people’s customs and religions Work together as a team
  17. Help and support one another
  18. Love and respect one another

This report back session was followed by comments from some of the elders.

One elder urged learners to study hard and take advantage of the education they are receiving as without education there can be no progress. She emphasized that deviating from education and engaging in other forms of deviations such as drugs, alcohol and sexual engagement would mislead them and interfere with their education rendering them to a life of poverty and destitution.

Another elder emphasized the importance of history and how it can help to enhance one’s understanding of life and appreciation of the liberation we have won and at what sacrifices. He lamented the fact that our democratic government had chosen not to make history compulsory for every child.

The final message was that we need to inform other people of these programmes and the value of such programmes. We should also encourage people to visit the Phoenix Settlement and learn about our history from the exhibitions in this place.

We should also begin to think about the importance of March 21st and human rights and how we can each contribute towards building a culture of human rights in South Africa so that we can really make the changes happen.

This report is being circulated to the school and to the GDT and Phoenix group to take this process forward so that more people can be involved and so that what has been started can be built on.