IEC and DBE take electoral democracy into the classroom

The Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) are proud to announce their collaborative hosting of South Africa’s Schools Democracy Week programme between Tuesday 1 and 7 October 2013.
“The Electoral Commission has identified a ‘registration gap’ among eligible voters aged 18 to 29, and its aim is therefore to increase the registration of the youth, hence its decision to partner with the Department of Basic Education, and indeed the Department of Home Affairs, in this drive,” said Mosotho Moepya, Chief Electoral Officer of the IEC.
The first such programme of its kind, it is intended to initiate a robust and sustainable process of democracy education in the schooling system in the future.
“We encourage schools to participate in the programme because from next year we will incorporate newly developed and approved material into the curriculum. It is therefore ideal for schools to take part this year. There will be various activities including debates and essay competitions,” said Dr Shermaine Mannah, Acting Chief Director for Social Inclusion and Partnerships in Education from DBE.
Together with the IEC, the department developed learning and teaching material which would be used as part of the co-curricular activities. The material is available on the DBE and IEC websites but hard copies have also been delivered to some schools.
The programme is set to reach thousands of primary and high schools throughout South Africa. Dr Mannah said consultations had taken place with Provincial Education officials as well as school principals who are fully in support of the programme because of its significance to the country.
“We declared School Democracy Week in order to introduce the programme to our learners and educators. We hope that next year we will be able to roll it out to all schools in our system,” said Dr Mannah.
In particular, the week’s programme will seek to:
• Raise awareness of the forthcoming 2014 National and Provincial Elections
• Introduce the Electoral Commission to learners, teach them about democracy, their rights and responsibilities as voters, how to register to vote, how to vote, and how to think critically about democratic issues.
• Increase the registration of the youth aged 16 and above on the National Voters’ Roll.
The Schools Democracy Week will span five days, beginning on Tuesday, 1 October 2013, and ending on Monday, 7 October 2013. The programme will include a maximum of five 40-minute in-class sessions (one per day) for learners in Grades R to Grade 9; and five 60-minute in-class sessions (one per day) for learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12.
A number of co-curricular activities are also scheduled to take place, either in the afternoons after school or on Saturday, 5 October 2013, depending on the arrangement with the school. These activities include registration drives, debates and town-hall-style interactive sessions.
As part of its on-going liaison with represented political parties on issues of electoral democracy, the Schools Democracy Week campaign has been discussed and agreed on by all parties through the national party liaison committee as well as provincial and local committees. Political parties have also been invited to participate by observing the roll-out of the campaign to ensure that it is conducted in an even-handed manner without party political bias.
The Schools Democracy Week programme will not disrupt the ordinary business of the schools. In fact, the timing of the programme is such that it has accommodated learner exams.
Where possible, the Electoral Commission intends to register eligible learners, both those aged 16 and 17 who can register but cannot vote, and those aged 18 and above who can register and can vote.
Learners are encouraged to bring their South African, green, bar-coded identity (ID) books or smart-card IDs to school with them during the Schools Democracy Week so that they can register to vote.
Those learners who don’t have an ID document are encouraged to apply for one at their nearest Home Affairs office as soon as possible.

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