Stakeholders at the workshop on the Westville
campus.

A champions and stakeholders meeting to pool resources and chart a way forward for an initiative to build a culture of non-violence in early childhood development using Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) was held on UKZN’s Westville campus.

At the meeting were representatives of the UKZN-based DST/NRF IKS Centre of Excellence; the Gandhi Development Trust; New Beginnings (an NGO focused on Early Childhood Development), and other stakeholders from both the private and public sector, including government officials.

Programme Co-ordinator at the Gandhi Development Trust, Ms Kanya Padayachee, said: ‘We face endemic violence on a daily basis in South Africa. Increasing numbers of young children find this [violence] to be a normal part of their world. Children are becoming reared in this terrible system of violence which confronts them at every level.

‘What is worrying about this is that they see the violence, mimic it, and this cycle of violence carries on repeating itself,’ said Padayachee.

‘If we want to change minds, and sustain that change, we must go to the earliest stages hence this interest in early child development (ECD).’

Addressing the workshop, the Director of New Beginnings, Ms Patsy Pillay, focused on early childhood development and education explaining the rationale behind focusing on ECD. ‘The first seven years of a child’s life is the most significant. By three years, at least 80 percent of the brain is formed. This is the ideal phase to encourage and develop a positive value system, not at Matric level.

‘This is where influencers inside and outside the home have an impact on the child,’ said Pillay.

Professor H O Kaya, the  Director  of the  DST/NRF IKS  Centre  of  Excellence,  said  the  initiative to build and promote a culture of nonviolence in ECD using  IKS was motivated  by the  fact that all sections of South African society, both public and private, including schools, places of worship, and places of work were plagued by incidents of violence such as rape, burglary, murder, and various  forms of abuse.

‘These  values  and practices are experienced  by  children from  the  early years of  growth and  development at  home, school, neighbourhoods, and shopping  centres.  This implies that any initiative  to  develop and inspire  the culture of  non-violence,  must  also  begin  during these formative  years,’ said Kaya.

‘Indigenous  ways  of  human relationship and behaviours including spiritual  values which emphasise  the importance  of tolerance for diversity, cooperation, sharing and respect  for   the  dignity  of all  forms of  God’s creation have  been  marginalised  in the search  for  building  sustainable   solutions  against  the culture of violence. These values are embedded in the African philosophy and principles of Ubuntu which emphasises that the individual realises their humanness through respect of the dignity and   well-being of others.

Kaya outlined the proposed roadmap to get the project off the ground:

• Conduct research in local communities including institutions on IKS values and practices which emphasise the culture of nonviolence, citizenship, social cohesion, gender equity, nation building, environmental consciousness and Ubuntu;
• Participation in a survey of existing values and practices in ECD Centres on awareness of a culture of non-violence and human rights, Ubuntu and the Gandhian Satyagraha philosophies: identification of uniformity, challenges and prospects;
• Design, produce and distribute toolkits of IKS-based educational materials (traditional music, folklores, puzzles, indigenous games, images, toys, dances, etc) that build and promote a culture of non-violence including positive values and practices;
• Provide necessary assistance to ECD practitioners and institutions to promote awareness of existing community and institutional based initiatives for building a culture of non-violence using IKS, eg protection of  IP, development of educational materials, curriculum, and programme activities;
• Develop educational/ training programmes and materials for the champions of the initiative including ECD practitioners, child-minders and educators;
• Fundraising for the implementation of initiative activities;
• Training of trainers including the Champions, ECD practitioners, child-minders and educators on the use of the toolkits.