Two workshops over the weekend from 23 to 24 February 2013 brought ICON into different roles in tackling violence in education. On 23rd February ICON hosted and participated in the first of a series of three workshops for students at a Durban high school, addressing their experience of violence. This was a led by two Scottish educationists, Susan Lendrum and Alex Wallace of the Jabulani Project. After a theory session, 24 students grappled with their personal experiences of violence. Exploratory work was done (mainly) in separate groups of boys and girls where there was a degree of emotional intensity and seriousness in both groups.
This led into a sharp discussion between girls and boys when they came together, in which the boys latter were accused of not taking girls seriously. This accusation was in sharp contrast to how the boys had just worked respectfully and intimately with one another. This moved into a rich and productive group time in which the possibility of harmonious and mutually supportive relationships between boys and girls was expressed. Once challenged, boys began to assert their ability to listen to girls, and to be more honest in their relationships with girls, which led into further discussion. The girls, too, began to think about their own problems in trusting boys.
A key problem for boys was that, when asked what stopped them from listening thoughtfully to each other, they said they felt anxious about being labelled as gay. This is an issue that will be picked up again in the subsequent workshops, which will focus on issues of love and loss, of respect and difference, of homophobia and of fears around being themselves/ the person they really are…
ICON has been promoting recognition of the need to undertake some of this kind of work in carefully facilitated gender-separate groups, to enable each gender to speak more freely. This seems to move typically into much more direct and honest communication between girls and boys, after which the possibility of more relaxed collaboration seems possible.
The second workshop, starting later the same day, was designed to take ahead anti-homophobia work in schooling. Led by Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the workshop systematically addressed ways in a module for teachers can form part of a strategy for making schools places safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex youngsters and staff.
If our agenda includes making education a safe place, and a model of nonviolence in society, leaving any group of students or staff unsafe is unacceptable. The plan is to run a pilot project in early April with student teachers and in-service teachers at UKZN. Crispin Hemson, ICON Director, will be directly involved in the design and teaching of the lectures and workshops.
In both these projects, ICON’s grasp of ways of teaching around violence is a central resource.