In this new and constantly emerging world, we need young people who are ready to take the lead with passion and conviction, grounded in values of social justice and compassion, and equipped with skills of critical thinking, dialogue and leadership.
The Marlene Silbert Youth Interfaith Intercultural Programme strives to achieve exactly this. We believe in this current moment our programme is more relevant than ever in providing young people with the skills that will help them reimagine a post-covid world.
It is our pleasure to update you on the progress of the Marlene Silbert Youth Interfaith Intercultural Programme, for 2020, which you can read the details of in this report:
In beginning the year, we were able to successfully start the programme with 9 participating schools contributing a new cohort of Grade 10 learners. We were particularly pleased this year to have learners from Langa High School join the programme, through a partnership with the organisation Just Grace.
We were also pleased to begin the year with a full Programme Coordinating Team – led by Babalwa Ngcongolo, John-Paul Roberts and Sarah Oliver. Sarah has worked on the programme for the last three years, along with Rev. Natalie Simons-Arendse. Babalwa and John-Paul were both facilitators on the programme in 2019, and so we are very pleased to have their skills and expertise in a leadership role this year. This is made possible through our continued partnership with the GOAL Trust – Giving Opportunities to Aspiring Leaders.
As you will read in the attached report, this year has had its challenges with the changing world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were fortunate to be able to hold our annual 5 day camp programme at the beginning of the year.. Highlights of this camp experience included having participants share a significant part of their religions and cultural traditions with each other, in the spirit of interfaith dialogue and respect. Other highlights involved learning about topics such as power, privilege, gender and sexuality, responsible citizenship and leadership. The most impactful part of camp is the sense of deep connection and unity felt in the group. The facilitators of the programme are very intentional about creating a safe space, where learners feel free to express themselves and build friendships based on trust, kindness and authenticity. We encourage you to read the attached report, which includes comments from the learners themselves.
With the changes necessitated by COVID-19, the programme too needed to adapt, making sure to always hold true to our purpose of building social cohesion, interfaith dialogue and peace between high school learners from different faiths, traditions and socio-economic backgrounds. Empowering young leaders to respond critically and consciously to the world around them is a critical outcome. Due to not being able to gather physically, we had to re-think what the programme would look like for the rest of the year.
We are proud to share that we have risen to the challenge, with the development of an online
curriculum, which has allowed participants to continue their engagement with each other and learn about relevant topics such as youth activism, social justice and human rights. The virtual learning site has been accompanied by monthly online meetings as well as conversations in dialogue groups through Whatsapp. New challenges such as costs of data and lack of internet access have emerged, which has been a barrier for some in participating fully in the programme. This is very concerning for us, as we work on a principle of inclusion, and we want to make sure that everyone has access to the full experience of the programme. Going forward we are working to be innovative and creative in making sure all participants have full access to being a part of the programme.
While our Grade 11 Tutoring year had to be put on hold, again due to the coronavirus, we are taking time to reimagine what a Grade 11 year of action can look like, and are confident that from next year the programme will launch with a powerful cohort of Grade 11’s who are ambassadors of peace, healing and justice not just in their schools, but their communities and country as well. With the coronavirus, we have also had to face the challenging situation of some funders changing their priorities to focus on COVID-19 relief efforts. While this is of course crucial, it has meant that our programme budget has been reduced, and we are in an urgent position of needing to ensure financial sustainability at a time when our programme is more relevant than ever in providing young people with the skills that will help them reimagine a post-covid world.
We invite you to join us on this journey and welcome your input and feedback!