Wednesday, 09 December 2020

Bloemfontein: Learners from schools in communities troubled by gangsterism, bullying, violence and substance abuse were selected by their peers over the weekend to represent Free Stateat the youth crime prevention school debate competition featuring seven (7) provinces.

The grand finale will be held on Saturday, 12 December 2020. The competition, dubbed #Youth4SaferSouthAfricaDebate, is part of efforts led by Safer South Africa Foundation (SSAF) to intensify crime prevention at schools.

This is done in collaboration with the SA Police Service, National Prosecuting Authority, Magistrates, Correctional Services, Department of Basic Education, SA Human Rights Commission and the Banking Association South Africa.

The competition involves learners between grade 8 and 11. The five learners who will represent Free State in the competition are:

From left to right: Mr Pitso Mereko (Provincial Coordinator); Mpolokeng Mokone (Phehello Secondary School); Dimakatso Mokgotsi (Phehello Secondary School); Shakeell McDougall (Welkom Secondary School); Pulane Magwaza (Welkom Secondary School) and Keneilwe Sefenya(Lenakeng Technical School).

The learners were selected to participate in the debate tournament after they performed the best in an essay competition about what they believed could be done about the crime situation at their schools and within their communities, respectively.

“It has been five weeks of intense debate, research, leadership and life skills training. I am pleased that the learners have emerged more self-confident, better informed about dealing with criminality and ready to represent their province,” said Mr Pitso Mereko, Safer South Africa Foundation’s Free State Provincial Coordinator.

The #Youth4SaferSouthAfricaDebate tournament is a partnership between The Training Firm and the Safer South Africa Foundation. The Training Firm developed a virtual multi-week youth leadership and programme for the Foundation.

The programme offers leadership, public speaking and speechcraft mastery skills for the learners. 175 learners from 36 schools in 7 provinces are participating in the debate competition. Mpumalanga and Northern Cape provinces will be added next year.

The virtual Zoom-based training programme offers a unique platform to reach learners in rural areas. The programme is cost-effective and is accessible to learners that would ordinarily not have access to similar life skills programmes. The Training Firm’s facilitators are alumnae of Toast Masters.

The #Youth4SaferSouthAfricaDebate is part of the Criminal Justice Programme (CJP) run by SSAF and offered at schools within crime hotspots.

The CJP is a bridge between schools and the criminal justice system departments and seeks to dispel myths learners may hold about criminal justice by exposing participants to facilities such as police stations, courts and correctional facilities through experiential learning.

So far, 360 learners have been exposed to the CJP in Free State while nationally, 73 schools and about 5000 learners have been reached.

“The major benefit of this programme is improved learner behavior, both at school and at home. Diverse topics debated during the training include social aspects such as drug and alcohol abuse, gangsterism, rape, bullying and violence. These problems are prevalent at the selected schools,” said General (retired) Riah Phiyega, CEO of Safer South Africa Foundation.

Great appreciation is extended to the many donors, supporters and volunteers that made the debate initiative possible.