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Examples Of Being Truly Responsible Citizens

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Being a responsible citizen is part of what we inspire and create among our learners.

The South African Quality Institute states “Quality schools help children become quality citizens. These citizens create a quality society.” (SAQI)

We need to ask ourselves how we are inspiring our learners and students to be responsible citizens.

The social media and news footage at the beginning of the week showed vandalism, arson and looting, and it was upsetting to see how many of the people involved were young. There were clips of very young children assisting looting adults looting. In many ways our schools, the education system as a whole and society has let our children down. The Amnesty International report of February 2020 describes how the South African Education System is failing our children. UNICEF stated that the South African education system still prevents many children from accessing quality education due to “poverty and inequality which remain harsh determinants, preventing so many children from accessing the quality basic education that they need.” (UNICEF)

In 2014 Maluleke’s research highlighted the need for encouraging and supporting parents “to play an important role as partners in their children’s education” with the schools leadership and teachers. The South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights, Chapter 2, states that adults and children living in South Africa, have “inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected and the right to a basic education, freedom and security”. While at the same time, it goes hand-in-hand with responsibilities.

In 2008 the Department of Basic Education launched a practical guide called the Bill of Responsibilities for schools and learners, related to the Bill of Rights.

The one focus of the document addresses “My responsibility in ensuring the right to citizenship” explaining “the right to citizenship expects that each of us will be good and loyal South African citizens. This means that we are responsible for:

  • obeying the laws of our country,

  • ensuring that others do so as well, and

  • contributing in every possible way to making South Africa a great country.” (DBE)

If we are not supporting our young people by example we are letting our youth and society down. Research indicates that if children do not learn proper values and behaviour when they are very young, behavioural and social problems can develop.

As teachers and school leaders, how are we being role models to the children we teach? Children mimic our behaviour and are also greatly impacted by self-fulfilling prophecies.

Research has shown that children who grow up with strong, positive values are happier and do better in school and in society. They are also better able to balance their personal wants and needs against those of others and to make positive contributions to society.

The most important thing we can do for our children is to help them acquire values and skills that they can rely on throughout their lives. In doing so, they will have the best chance to lead good lives as individuals and as citizens of their communities and of society as a whole.

“Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

As teachers, we all want our children to grow up to be responsible citizens, caring and good people. Learning to think, feel and act respectfully both online and in real-life. We want them to succeed and follow their own dreams and their own well-being, while being considerate of the needs and feelings of others. We want them to recognize and honour the democratic principles on which our country was founded. The South African Quality Institute states “Quality schools help children become quality citizens. These citizens create a quality society.”

Within all the chaos and mayhem we are seeing young people assisting and supporting each other. A mother who threw her child down from a burning building, and the crowd caught the baby (Yahoo News, M. Thamm, Daily Maverick )

Thousands of people in various communities are assisting in the cleaning up of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng regions that were damaged during the protests and looting (Scenic Drive With Rian, Jacaranda FM, M. Thamm, Daily Maverick)

People are putting up their hands to help save and rebuild our country. There have been posts on Facebook by people offering to help with cleaning up. Hashtags such as #CleanupSA or the Group created on Facebook by ‘I know a Guy’ group, entitled Rebuild South Africa, where people are volunteering help and services. The community of Diepkloof, Soweto took to their streets in a clean up drive (iol)

Organisations reaching out such as WESSA (Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa)

YES & TBF Youth Group is one of those organisations. (East Coast radio, T K Molofe, )

Companies such as Shoprite Group and Hirschs, saying they will rebuild to assist communities as soon as possible (M. Thamm, Daily Maverick; N. Sonjica, TimeLIVE; C.Williams, IOL).

Most importantly, the teachers who on social media put up their hands to assist in the clean-up. What wonderful examples to their students.

Here we see people being responsible citizens, putting their values and beliefs in action. In all of the sadness, horror,heartache and loss, people are supporting each other. The road to return is not an easy one. Building back is not going to be a quick fix. We can thank the citizens that believe in the democratic values of care and respect for others.

As teachers we should be promoting the values of respect for each other among all our learners, building them up, to be wonderful South African citizens.


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