News 2010

Young leaders for nonviolence

ICON’s focus on schools is moving to an approach of leadership development. The first phase of this work began with a research project in December 2010, when a group of student leaders from schools met to reflect on their experience of violence, and their responses to violence. This group was drawn from a larger group of student leaders from four schools which ICON has worked with since September 2009, all of which are township and inner city schools.

The ethical clearance for this work requires confidentiality over the experience of violence. However, the participants discussed the issue of making a public statement. After discussion of the limits they wish to place on publicity, they decided that they wish to be publicly identified with a statement that they have produced on young people and violence, as part of their own leadership for nonviolence. That statement appears on this page.

This kind of research is participatory, and aims to build the understanding not just of the researcher, but of the participants themselves. This research is part of ICON’s work of leadership development. These young people distinguished themselves through their commitment and their willingness to think hard about some difficult issues.

Research group.

One issue identified by the participants is that some events that they had not thought of as violent, they see as violent when they reflect on them. Another that arose was the relationship of gender to violence. For part of the project, girls and boys worked separately. Apart from stating that they liked this a lot, girls made statements such as ‘We could speak a common language with each other’, ‘If boys were in the group, we would not get straight answers ’ and ‘It would take time for guys to understand our language, perspective and fears.’

The discussion after this had its difficulties, as boys were confronted by girls about gender relations, before there was a sense of a more equitable basis for communication. Clearly this is an area which needs further thought. How do we best enable young people to interact in ways that challenge inequality while fostering amongst both boys and girls a sense of hope?

The work with experience revealed not some of the profound difficulties that young people face in responding to violence in ways that do not in turn involve further violence. In fact, they had already taken action which had been positive in addressing violence, within their school and community contexts.

Among the issues that surfaced was the potential for sport to be a positive experience from which young people could benefit, and the way that young people may find a source of strength through connection with wildlife and the physical environment. A further issue was the starting of a conversation about culture, and the cultural resources that young South Africans (in this case isiZulu-speaking youngsters) can bring to advancing nonviolence internationally.

This is phase one of a project that we hope will lead into an ongoing Leadership Institute. Within education, it would focus on different levels by supporting the development of student leaders, teachers, principals and university teachers. The next phase of the leadership work with young people is to work with a more diverse group of schools, in which these young people will be invited to be resource people. We will also work with our partners, the Community Development Association at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which includes a large number of student teachers. ICON wishes to salute their willingness to give time and commitment to this process.
Click here to read “Statement by research participants”

Exploring metaphors of nonviolence

Thulani Ncwane

Crispin Hemson, Director of ICON, presented a paper on South African metaphors of nonviolence at the Orebro-Unisa conference on democracy, human rights and social justice in a new global dispensation on 1st February 2010. His paper explored the metaphors used by those who have worked for nonviolent change in South Africa.His presentation addressed the language used by Gandhi, by Albert Luthuli, and by Thulani Ncwane. Thulani Ncwane, a city councillor on the eThekwini Metro until his death in 2008, used striking imagery to communicate his arguments as to why activists should use nonviolent means with the birth of the new democracy.‘Thulani drew on a rich vein of metaphor in isiZulu, but he was also the creator of indigenous knowledge in the way he used language to address immediate problems of violence,’ Crispin said. The one document of Thulani’s was dictated to Crispin around 1995, to address what Thulani saw as the wrong treatment of someone who had been sentenced to death at a community meeting. Thulani had intervened to stop an attack on him, and then developed a powerful argument based on the democratic use of the new South African institutions.‘In his document, Thulani used imagery of transition, to indicate that violence that had been an inevitable aspect of the years of struggle was no longer appropriate.’ For example, the document uses these terms: ‘This situation also requires strong leadership, a person who will be holding binoculars looking far forward to see whether the weather will be raining or sunny the next day. If it will be sunny he will ask us to buy shorts, if it will be raining he will ask us to buy a rain suit.‘If he asks us to buy a rain suit on a sunny day and shorts on a rainy day, it is like singing funeral songs at a wedding and wedding songs at a funeral.’ He goes on to argue that the transition from struggle to democracy society requires a radical change in approach to violence. The document also draws on the issue of connection between people, and the damage done to those connections by violence.

The purpose of this study is to explore the many rich indigenous sources of nonviolent action towards justice. One implication is that our work in education needs to be directed not just to telling people about nonviolence, but also to helping them to develop their own language, understandings and strategies.

Development of new module at Durban University of Technology

ICON is working on a collaborative foundational module for students at Durban University of Technology. The module will address a range of social and educational issues: dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, dealing with issues of diversity, developing nonviolent approaches to social change, and developing academic skills. On 17th March a workshop was held in the Satyagraha offices on the ML Sultan campus.

Crispin Hemson, Director of ICON, leads discussion.

Partners in the project are DUT’s HIV Centre, and the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). ‘ICON’s role is in particular using its resources in curriculum development to ensure that the module is well integrated, and that it addresses student concerns in a thoughtful way,’ said Crispin Hemson, Director.The project has the backing of senior management at DUT. One of the resource people present was Pholoho Morojele, lecturer in Social Justice Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was asked to draw on his expertise as leader of the Diversity and Learning module on the Edgewood campus of UKZN.

At the workshop: Kate Wells, Ntokozo Zondo, Thobile Zulu, Sipho Zulu, Pholoho Morojele (foreground).

Another ICON involvement has been the Director’s role as the Chairperson of the DUT Transformation Task Team. A workshop of the DUT Council on 12th March explored what transformation entailed for the university. Crispin Hemson addressed the workshop to present an overview of the Ministerial Committee’s Report, as well as the work of the Task Team. Ela Gandhi, ICON Deputy Chairperson, in her role as Chancellor.

Creating a culture of nonviolence in schools

ICON is working with an organisation of student teachers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to strengthen their ability to enhance nonviolence in schools.  At present, ICON is running four workshops to develop capacity amongst the student teachers, using a variety of methods to develop an understanding of violence, of the forms it takes and the ways it impacts on schools, and on the possibilities for developing a stronger culture of nonviolence.

Philile Mkhize of the CDA discusses school violence with another participant.

The students are all active members of the Community Development Association (CDA), an organisation led by students, and based on the Edgewood campus of UKZN.  The CDA is involved in a range of projects with local schools, from debating to a course for school-leavers, and development of peer counselling skills related to HIV/AIDS.‘Because the CDA members already integrate their theoretical knowledge with community engagement, they are an excellent group to work with,’ said Crispin Hemson, ICON Director.  ‘Using story-telling has been one way in which we are together getting a stronger sense of the dynamics that must be addressed if we are to build a culture of nonviolence in this context.’ The next stage of the project will involve the students in work with young people in schools in the Durban-Pinetown area, while ICON will also run workshops targeted at teachers from the same schools.

Foundational programme at Durban University of Technology

ICON is working on a collaborative foundational programme for students at Durban University of Technology. The module will address a range of social and educational issues: dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, dealing with issues of diversity, developing nonviolent approaches to social change, and developing academic skills.

Thabo Msibi, one of the presenters at the workshop on 12th August, with Gwen Stuart of the DUT HIV Centre.

The programme was discussed in depth with faculties at DUT at a workshop on 12th August 2010. Presenters at the workshop included Professor Dennis Francis, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State, Professor Andre Keet, Director of the Transdisciplinary Programme, University of Fort Hare, Mr Thabo Msibi and Dr Pholoho Morojele, Lecturers in Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Mr Crispin Hemson, Director, International Centre of Nonviolence.The workshop resolved to proceed with the development of either a foundational module or alternative foundational programme in each faculty. The initial phase will address the common learning outcomes, and then the design of specific interventions.

Participants at the workshop.

Partners with ICON in the project so far have been DUT’s HIV Centre, the DUT Library, and the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). ‘ICON’s role is in particular using its resources in curriculum development to ensure that the module is well integrated, and that it addresses student concerns in a thoughtful way,’ said Crispin Hemson, Director.The workshop was introduced by the DUT Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nqabomzi Gawe, Chairperson of the ICON Board, and Professor Nomthandazo Gwele, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic.