Voice of the Children
Voice of the Children
Archival SourceThe Children’s Movement. childrensmovement.org.za
This tool is intermittently updated to integrate new information sent to the authors.
24 April 2022
Izwi Labantwana, Die Kinderstem, Voice of the Children is the official newsletter of the southern African organisation the Children’s Movement, which had been produced between 1986 and 2017. The newsletter released issues annually in the early 90s, increasing up to five issues per annum in the later years. The production team largely consisted of child and youth members, who curated and wrote most of the pieces, which are conveyed in three languages interchangeably, i.e., isiXhosa, Afrikaans, and largely English.
Izwi Labantwana, which translates from isiXhosa to English as “voice of the children”, offers an insight to how the children perceive the world in an unabashed version of their own frame of understanding. In spanning over four decades, we are given a temporal window into where child-centred perspectives of the poorer sects are little known.
This teaching tool is an expansion of research that previously was published in an Honours thesis. It is intended to acknowledge the newsletters of the Children’s Movement alongside publications that are more typically considered as being “revolutionary” while also offering for closer readings and analysis than the Children’s Movement’s own archive allows.
The Children’s Movement: A Brief History
The Children’s Movement began not long before the newsletter, in the early 1980s. At the time South Africa had been undergoing the unfortunate tumult of apartheid when the movements founders, anti-apartheid organisers, felt that the community’s children needed direction. The children were growing up in imposed social spheres which were greatly unsettling. They decided that “For children the future is now”; one of the movement’s leading mottos. The Movement has thus worked diligently in attempting to better prepare the children for a present they are more likely to face, through realising a potential agency the movement believes the children already have.
Basing the programming on principles of love, compassion and respect the Children’s Movement (CM) has worked in setting up their presence in several South African provinces, as well as in Namibia. Until today the CM has established over 100 children’s groups with over 5000 members. In the four decades the organisation has covered topics ranging from nutrition, hygiene, the arts, knowing the environment, conservation, climate change, food security, fair practice, and education with production. The various programmes are conducted with an overarching objective of training trainers, where the members are encouraged to pass what they gain as a CM member to others. In between there has been feeding schemes, skills training, CV workshops, and the like. The movement has received various levels of funding over the decades with capital fluctuations changing dynamics, decentralizing, but never extinguishing the spirit of those on the ground.
Starting a Children’s Group
The members of the Children’s Movement take form in groups, these groups are usually initiated out of a need for unifying activity in the area or school. It is started through a child or youth member, or local parent or community member who notices young people that has free time with minimal options of beneficient activities or places to go. The adult would then act as a go-between the children’s group and the Children’s Movement from whence reading and programme materials are sourced. Where there is not an adult, an older child is known to take this role. In the group, the members are allocated specific tasks such as spearing the different programme branches, with guidelines and games provided in the material. The programmes are constructed for the children to take ownership of their activities and structurally visit relevant concerns.
Adults in the Children’s Movement
The child-centredness of the movement emphasizes the importance of the adults’ role in shaping or permitting the modalities within to develop positively. Behind every group there is one or many parents, guardians, teachers, community members or CM staff supporting and facilitating. Founding member Marcus Solomon, also known by the children as tamkhulu (grandfather), has been there from the very beginning. In recent times Josephine de Klerk, longstanding staff member holding various positions including senior facilitator and trainer can be found at the helm. De Klerk has established and consolidated multiple programmes for the movement in South Africa and Namibia.
The environment programme initially consisted of community clean-ups, adding plant and animal care with the establishment of the gardening project in 1986. 1Children’s Movement SA. ‘Brief History of the Children’s Resource Centre and the Children’s Movement’, 79-80. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-gQ_aSQZSL9FpSrB0ouJTYVy4Wj9kjZX/view Clean-up campaigns continued into the early 2000s, with resources including bags and lunch fare provided by the CRC. A major clean-up of Monwabisi beach took place in 1998, with 650 members participating before play-time and a workshop on making music from the collected recycled materials.
Nature conservation played a key figure in what the movement hoped to instill in the children’s view of their surroundings. The mid-90s saw outings to nature reserves and gardening workshops with provided reading materials and basic tools. The gardening project acted as the backbone for the food security programme, which had branches in both the environment and food sectors. The vegetables from the gardens were encouraged to be contributed towards creating informal soup kitchens, forwarding to empty homes, or establishing co-ops. More recently the Movement has been engaged with their Education with Production Projects. Through sewing skills training the members have been busy making reusable sanitary towels and wonderbags – a wireless heating bag for pots of food.
- Children’s Movement SA. ‘Brief History of the Children’s Resource Centre and the Children’s Movement’, 79-80. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-gQ_aSQZSL9FpSrB0ouJTYVy4Wj9kjZX/view→
Reporting on the Environment
Featured pages below are from Izwi Labantwana, Die Kinderstem, Voice of the Children, June 1998 (pp.1-4), September 1999 (p.2), and September 2001 (pp. 1-4).
All scans courtesy of the Children’s Movement SA archive: childrensmovement.org.za.
In the 1980s the health programme consisted of workshops and training on hygiene and healthy living. The children’s newsletter has published guides on self-care practices, like brushing teeth and using ash as an alternative for toothpaste. Other’s included the treatment of loose bowels with household items and depicted with step-by-step illustrations. The child-to-child approach (from now referred to as C2C) presented a realistic mode through which to respond to some of the challenges faced by children in communities where the movement had presence. The approach which teaches children to see to basic health care needs of others their age was officially adopted in 1994. CM members who participated in the C2C health programme became part of health teams, who with assistance from adult facilitators set up health centres.
In 1990 the first health centre was set up, and by 2001 over forty-five HCs were in operation nationally. Resembling a type of sick bay, the CRC equipped health centre’s (HCs) with the following items; a nail clipper, comb, brush, shampoo, soap, basin, ointment, cotton wool, Savlon, a towel, facecloth, water jug, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. All CM health team members are trained in how to use the items for basic everyday hygiene practice. The training is constructed to emphasise passing the skill on to others.
Special Health Edition
Izwi Labantwana, Die Kinderstem, Voice of the Children, Special Health Edition, July 1998.
In the year 2000 the movement officially launched the Anti-Bullying Campaign (ABC). The event manifested in the Eastern Cape but as part of the campaign, the message, objective and attached programs were distributed to the CMs other branches. The children’s groups came together to discuss instances of bullying they experienced or observed and possible ways to work through it. Encouraging speaking out and formulating constructive responses, the ABC acted as another stem from the core values of respect found branching through the sectors.
The other campaigns organised by the Children’s Movement were constructed in a similar way, emphasizing compassion and protecting those around us. The AIDs campaign, the Gender-based Violence campaign, the Anti Racism/Anti Xenophobia campaign; all construe not only to prohibit instigation of the implied circumstance but promote appropriate, healthy responses.
The Movement’s Girl Child campaign under the Girl Child Movement has been promoting gender equality since the early 1980s. The campaign has had workshops, marches, debates, and interactive activities teaching gender equality and healthy sexual identity. In 2002 the branch of the Movement transitioned into the Girl Child Organisation and joined the Namibian Girl Child Organisation in the network of the African Girl Child Movement.
In 2006 the GCO published Soul Sista, the official newsletter of the Girl Child Organisation emerging as an excerpt within Izwi Labantwana. Apart from valuable information on sexual health, the young curators of Soul Sista chose powerful poems for the newsletter’s pages. Poems depicting the challenges and triumphs of gender identity faced by young Southern Africans.
Imagining the Future
Multiple parts of the organisation are built around the children being the decision makers, growing their own plants, regulating good hygiene, feeding and protecting each other all require the decision to act. Embracing this principle, the Children’s Movement ask their members what decision they would like to see made in their futures.
A segment of Izwi Labantwana 2016 ‘Imagining the Future’ explores the temporal conceptualisations connecting the tomorrow’s future to today. Through asking the readers what they imagine in their future, their goals, ambitions and importantly, the state of society around them.