Posts Tagged ‘Grahamstown’

Youth, community service, and giving back

Just over one month ago, on the 21st February, on a very windy, cold and rainy day, young people from across Grahamstown walked for awareness. The President’s Award Walkathon, which took place at the Rhodes University athletics track was an opportunity for young people who are involved in the Award programme to raise awareness about what they are doing and what the importance of community service is to them and to the broader community.

Those that attended are passionate about their impact on their communities, but more so are passionate about being recipients of life lessons as they go about their community service. These young people have a strong sense of their own civic identities, these are young people who matter in their communities, and who will make a difference to a great many people. At the same time, they are humble about their efforts, and reflexive about their own growth and their own development.

Despite a small turnout, the efforts of those who organised the event were strongly supported by those who did attend and they can be proud of the young people who are giving back. These are young people who braved the weather to tell others about their experiences, their small efforts, and the huge rewards that they get from being part of something bigger than themselves. While we often lament the apathy of young people, we should be looking beyond the numbers and looking at the quality of those who are civic minded, community aware, and who will become leaders in their communities in the future. Quality of spirit rather than quantity of participants defines their efforts.

Hear what they had to say

Researching media and citizenship amongst South African youth

What is my role as a South African citizen?

Can I make a difference?

Am I able to effect change?

The above questions implicitly confront every citizen on a daily basis and the answers to these questions will affect the qualities of individual citizenship. However, these questions are difficult to answer and when they explicitly confront the citizen he or she may well find it difficult to formulate an answer.

The ‘Media and Citizenship’ initiative of the Mellon Foundation Humanities Focus Area at Rhodes University‚Äôs School of Journalism and Media Studies has embarked on on joint project with the ‘Study of Youth Identity, Media Use and Consumption and the Public Sphere in South Africa’ funded by the South Africa Netherlands Project on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD). This joint project looks at how citizens make meaning of citizenship and scrutinises their use of the media in South Africa’s democratic evolution. The mode of investigation into these issues will take place by means of focus group discussions which will be held in Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Alice, East London and Johannesburg.

The project forms part of a larger national project funded by SANPAD which investigates the ways in which the media help to shape the identities of South African Youth. The Mellon-funded ‘Media and Citizenship’ project looks specifically at the media and its connections to citizenship, and our involvement with the larger SANPAD-funded project attempts to widen the range and extent of the SANPAD research and data set. Approximately 1000 people between the ages of 15 and 36 from the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal have already participated in the survey conducted by the ‘Study of Youth Identity, Media Use and Consumption and the Public Sphere in South Africa’.

The purpose of the joint venture between the two projects is to explore some of the issues which were brought to the fore in the SANPAD-funded survey in more depth by creating spaces in which South African citizens of various social, cultural, and economic backgrounds can have their say about the issues which affect them and the greater South African society. The focus group discussions also look at the way individuals navigate and make use of the media in order to become involved in not only community but also national issues. Furthermore the discussions will look at the way in which people acquire information and how they make use of that information in order to connect with other people. The discussions will also attempt to determine how the acquired information assists citizens to become active in their community.

The information gathered in these various locations across the Eastern Cape and Johannesburg will hopefully provide a deeper understanding how the complex dynamics involved in the way in which citizens process information.

In the last few weeks the ‘Media and Citizenship’ group have discussed the importance of ‘listening’ as well as the creation of ‘listening spaces’ with specific reference to the work done by Tanja Dreher. In a sense the focus group discussions become a created space where listening can take place not only between the different participants who are engaged, active and responsive in the process, but it is also a space where the interviewers will be in a position to listen to the information provided by the participants and to interpret and report the views expressed.

  • Focus group discussions have already been conducted in Grahamstown and are at present being conducted in Alice and East London. The Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg focus groups still have to be held.

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