The role and participation of citizens in municipal processes and local government planning are critical for civic engagement, influencing policy, decision-making and holding government accountable.
This was a message delivered by Afesis-corplan’s Executive Director, Nontando Ngamlana at the Buffalo City Metro (BCM) civic education dialogue held in East London on Friday May 22.
Ngamlana said civic education today must address the present problems but also build the skills and capacity needed for the future envisaged role of citizens in supporting the articulated long-term vision of the Buffalo City Metro municipality.
She said it was Afesis-corplan’s view that a different approach to civic education was needed because we, as a country, are in a different place in our democratic process.
“In implementing civic education, we have to ask the following questions: Where are we and where do we want to be? What skill and capacity do we want to see in our citizens in the next 10, 20 and 30 years? And what content do we build into our education material, what tools do we use to build the capacity and skill we envisage? How will we know when we are succeeding? Who do we need to partner with? And what other resources do we need?,” Ngamlana said.
BCM Council Speaker Alfred Mtsi chaired the dialogue aimed at finding solutions to address some of society’s biggest challenges such as unemployment, poverty and inequality.
The Executive Director defined civic education as “a process of empowering citizens to strengthen democracy.”
She said civic education prepared citizens for meaningful participation in government planning.
“Civic education builds responsible citizens to use their resources no matter how limited they are to contribute to a greater good of society,” the Executive Director said.
“In the last 20 years civic education has focused on informing. Everyone knows the three spheres of government and they are generally rights conscious. Everyone knows how to vote” said Ngamlana.
“However, crime rate has increased, gender-based violence has increased, protests are more violent,” Ngamlana said.
She explained further: “What this tells us is that in the last 20 years we focused on civic education based on individualistic citizenship where everything is about ‘me and me alone’. We neglected communal citizenship based on Ubuntu (humanity).”
BCM Office of the Speaker General Manager, Sabelo Nkuhlu gave a presentation about stakeholders they wished to see participate in civic education.
Nkuhlu said the stakeholders were government institutions, civic formations such as community based organizations, traditional leadership, business community, youth formations, women organizations, people with disabilities, NGO’s, Chapter 9 Institutions and tertiary institutions.
Nkuhlu says they would like to see civic education in BCM tackle issues of public education on human rights, laws and policies of government (Constitution), roles and responsibilities of citizenry, gender equality and women empowerment, youth and children development.