Children's Resource Centre and Children's Movement
The Children’s Movement was initiated in 1979. It emerged out of community struggles and from mothers asking questions about the future of their children in the context of anti-apartheid struggle. Questions we raised such as, how does learning take place? How does one inculcate values different to those of the apartheid system? How do we develop new types of relationships? If we reject Bantu Education, what should our children’s learning and education look like, what would an emancipatory education look like? A number of Children’s Groups were established in different communities. Eventually these groups, as a collective, called themselves the Children’s Movement.
The purpose of the Children’s Movement is to build a self-organised movement for and of children win order to build a better world for children.
The purpose of educational work is directly linked to the building of an alternative, socialist society. It is about building enquiring minds and encouraging the creativities and energies of ordinary children. It is about encouraging socialist values of sharing, anti-sexism, anti-racism, mutual care and democracy amongst others, as well as affirming the common sense knowledge that children often come with, for example, children sometimes simply ask, “why can’t we just share … why should only half the children in the world have food? Why do I need money to eat? I’m also hungry?”. A space is built in which children’s thoughts and emotions that are uncorrupted by capitalist ideology of competition, individualism etc. are affirmed. Beyond the affirmation and building of particular values, the educational work taps into the development of the whole child – the child’s creativities and physical capacities. Thus learning is not seen as a solely mental activity; rather education with production is strived for in which a different mode of production and the education necessary for such can be explored – with the ultimate aim of the creation of children who carry socialist values, creating the embryos of a socialist society in the present. The philosophy that informs the work is that children are potential change agents. And the highest form of learning is being an active participant in all things affecting one’s life.
The Children’s Movement is open to all children but focuses on children of school going age from ordinary working class communities. In the 1980s, the Western Cape civics set up the first children’s groups in communities like Elsies River and Mitchell’s Plain. In 2000 the Youth Section was launched and in 2002 the Girl Child Movement.
The Children’s Movement has a number of focus areas, each with their own projects, including:
- Anti-Racism Campaign
- Anti-Bullying Campaign
- Food security
- Literacy Project
- Girl Child Movement
The educational approach of the Children’s Movement and the Children’s resource Centre is firstly an understanding of the child as a whole person with different potentialities, capacities and creativities. There is respect for children’s experiences and knowledge – children are not just here to be taught by adults. In fact, adults have much to learn from children! Thus the role of adults or older children is that of asking questions and facilitating learning processes and children’s production of knowledge. Emphasis is placed on creating the conditions that allow for the growth and development of the socialist person.
Tools and processes
Some examples of different tools and processes include:
Media: The Media programme enables children to participate in the production of their own media and to view media more critically. Three elements make up this programme: a regular newsletter, a radio programme. Publications include:
Children’s magazines such as, Upbeat, Voice of the Children and Soul Sista and booklets such as, How to Build a Children’s Movement.
The food security and co-operatives programme led to the establishment of food gardens, with a plan to develop a youth commune. The development of food gardens is to ensure that children learn to feed themselves even in an environment of deep poverty. 33 community and schools-based gardens have been established which are maintained by teams of children and youth. The trained youth and children train the others and in that way skills and knowledge is shared and passed down to younger children. This Project is also an example of an attempt to combine mental and manual labour.
The Children’s Movement draws on arts and culture as part of their learning and education. Children undertake activities such as painting, modern and traditional dance, drama, singing and puppetry.
In 2005, the Children’s Movement held an Anti-Racism Conference. Before the conference, children researched other children’s experiences of racism by asking questions and making observations. At the conference, children reported on their research findings and shared experiences of abuse, prejudice and discrimination. Children discussed some of the causes of racism and discussed the way forward – for example, a no-bullying resolution was adopted. The conference encouraged a process of active learning regarding issues that children face everyday and used the learning to prepare future action to make the world, even in a small way, a better place for children to live in.
The Children’s Movement’s highest decision making bodies outside of National conferences and congresses are General Councils. In this way, children actively learn about and practice democratic processes and principles of collectivity, debate, discussion, giving/receiving mandates, and being accountable to others.
Understanding of popular education
Popular education is understood as creating an environment for socialization and learning – it is not about imparting knowledge and skills. An environment for the co-construction of knowledge is collaboratively created. Here Vygotsky’s understanding of the co-construction of reality is drawn upon. Popular education is understood as having an emancipatory intention, drawing on Freirean conscientisation processes and Gramsci’s idea of the creation of a socialist person.