Empowerment through Advocacy
At the Bishop Simeon Trust we recognise that central to ending the cycle of poverty is education. Education keeps children from early marriage, provides them with the resources to get out of poverty and provides access to greater opportunities in the future. Education empowers them to stand up and make their own choices.
Seven in ten young South Africans’ (18-24 years) have no qualifications at all. According to some reports, even among those with matric (the final exams of secondary school), only 17% are likely to get a job within a year of leaving school.
The problem is that many vulnerable children don’t get the chance to access their free education. They are moved around from household to household and cannot get to their local school or cannot afford the school uniform to go. Often if they are the eldest child, they have to stay at home to look after the younger children or need to go out to find work to pay for the very basics of life. Often vulnerable children find the stress of losing a parent so distressing that they are less likely to attend school or miss it and when they do attend, they find it difficult to concentrate.
Advocating for access to education
For many years the Bishop Simeon Trust provided direct support to assure that children were able to access education. As South Africa has continued its transformation over recent decades we have adapted our support to assure that what we do can have the optimum impact to help assure children access the free education that is now available to them. We now play a role in supporting the development of Safe Park services at the heart of communities that help remove those obstacles to children accessing education. The obstacles are many: a sick parent requiring care; the need for them to earn an income for the household; lack of awareness; their own health; etc.
The Child Care Advocates within Safe Parks provide this support, as well as a safe space which wraps around the school day and is there for children during holidays. Here they can find support through homework clubs, social education support, HIV/AIDS awareness. education about their own rights, etc. They can also have at least one nutritious meal each day, which helps assure that hunger does not distract them in the classroom.
The Early Childhood Development centres we support focus on the development of language, perceptual motor skills required for learning to read and write, basic numeracy concepts and skills, problem solving skills, a love of learning and the establishment and maintenance of relationships. This helps children prepare for school, as well as have a sound basis for lives which are happy and able to cope with - and continue to transform - the world around them.
Changing the Story - Peer Education, Advocacy and the Voice of the Child
Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children have the right to have an opinion and that adults take this opinion seriously, particularly in relation to the services that are supposed to support them. At the Bishop Simeon Trust we are very serious about our support for this and for the promotion of the voice of the children we support throughout our work and in the development of the services that we support. After all, they are the experts in terms of what it is like to be a child in modern South Africa and their priority needs!
It is statutorily required of the Isibindi Safe Parks we support that they have in place a Youth Committee, the chair of which sits as a member of their governance board. We work with our partners Themba Interactive to help develop these Youth Committees using creative means which help children and young people find a safe space to explore those most sensitive issues relating to HIV/AIDS, health, wellness, human rights, social justice, diversity, sexual identity, etc. Themba have expertise in the use of a range of techniques, including applied drama, a grassroots comics model brought to South Africa through a partnership with World Comics India and a community film making project we have developed with the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds in the UK.
This represents our Peer Education Programme, through which we seek to help vulnerable children change the story of their communities, defining the problems they face and also the solutions to them, the services that exist to help them and the actions they can take themselves to transform their own lives on a daily basis. Through the creative media we use we support them to share this with their peers, helping influence behaviour change, but also with their communities more broadly, as well as their leaders and those people who develop policy and services for them. In this way we help carry the voice of the child so that they can speak truth to power for themselves. By doing this our support not only addresses the immediate needs of vulnerable children in South Africa, but also empowers them to help create a better future for them and their communities.
Please have a look at our YouTube channel where you can find more films created, produced and starring those children and young people we support in South Africa - they're quite remarkable.
How you can help?
If you would like to support BSTrust there are a number of ways to do so: