Civics Academy Newsletter

Looking back at the second half of 2022

To the Civics Academy Community

As we enter a new year in our civic engagement journey, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the highlights that we celebrated when closing off 2022.

In the second half of 2022, we were proud of the successes we enjoyed with our community – from the valued informal engagements to the collaborations with government and other civil society organisations to bring civic education and encourage civic participation across all areas of our society. In this newsletter, we invite you to join us as we look back at these wins that we achieved through our shared passion for civic engagement. We hope you’ll enjoy the read!

Celebrating nationally observed public holidays with our community

As part of our ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the importance of civic education and participation in our country, we at Civics Academy often plug into the various nationally observed public holidays to spotlight relevant Civics Academy content and engage our community members in a meaningful way. In the second half of 2022, we commemorated National Women’s Day and Heritage Day, among others.

Observing National Women’s Day with Rivonia Circle

On 9 August 2022, National Women’s Day, Civics Academy attended an #ActivistExchange hosted by Rivonia Circle. At this event, South African civil society organisations came together to showcase their work and facilitate capacity-building workshops under various themes in the civic education and engagement space.

In one of the workshops we attended, Strengthening Civic Participation by ACTIVATEZA!, participants were challenged to share their personal values and assets, and then show how they could use these in pursuit of any dream they had for their communities. Two key lessons emerged from this exercise:

1. The issues we see in South Africa’s democracy are not isolated, and neither are their solutions.

2. To show up effectively in active citizenship and civic participation, we need to ask how we as individuals can contribute to the collective effort and also leverage each other’s skills within the collective.

We’re grateful to our colleagues at Rivonia Circle and their co-organisers for hosting us in a fun and engaging #ActivistExchange with fellow #DemocracyBuilders.

Our National Heritage Month Campaign

In commemoration of National Heritage Month in September 2022, Civics Academy launched its own month-long campaign, exploring the history of South Africa’s heritage celebrations in relation to our Constitution. 

In the first part of the campaign, we used our video materials titled What is the South African Bill of Rights? and What are Chapter 9 Institutions? to help viewers better understand how the South African Constitution enables us to embrace and express our diverse cultures as a democratic nation. In the second part, we leveraged civic engagement with our community to look closer at how we, as South African citizens, choose to celebrate our heritage. Specifically, we asked a few of our active citizens to describe what Heritage Day means to them. These were some of our favourite responses:

Partnering with government and other CSOs to bring civic education and training

In addition to our social media advocacy for civic education and participation, Civics Academy also partners with various government institutions, civil society organisations, and schools to bring our educational materials to different levels of society. In the second half of 2022, we led three of these major engagements which took the form of training workshops and monitoring visits.

Cultivating Democracy Through Civic Education training with the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa

Early in 2022, Civics Academy was approached by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to collaborate on an extensive capacity-building project for IEC employees who promote civic and democracy education. The project officially kicked off in July, with Civics Academy providing educational material and facilitating 12 civic education trainings for about 500 Local Electoral Project Officers (LEPOs) and other IEC staff members from all nine provinces. The trainings covered topics such as the Constitution, Governance, Local Government, Citizen Participation, and Elections. IEC Commissioner Dr Nomsa Masuku and Vice-Chairperson Janet Love participated actively in two of the trainings held in Pretoria.

At the end of each training, participants were asked to give feedback on the session and share their key takeaways. The topics that were highlighted as most valuable to the participants were the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Citizen Participation. Participants also shared the following takeaways after the sessions:

Our democracy is much more than a once-off event every five years. It is a participatory democracy, so let’s participate to make it a success.”

“I understand now that civic education starts with me, in my home and every day when I go out there.”

“We need to be the agents of change. The future rests within us, we need to be the agents of our own destiny.”

While this first phase of the project was concluded in October 2022, Civics Academy will continue its collaboration with the IEC in the years to come.

Monitoring the use of our Lecturers’ Guides in TVET colleges 

As the IEC train-the-trainer workshops were underway in August, Civics Academy also convened visits to various South African Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (TVET) that use our Life Orientation Lecturers’ Guides. The guides, which were created in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education and Training, assist Life Orientation Lecturers at TVET colleges to facilitate fun and interactive learning in the teaching of active citizenship and voter education.

The step-by-step guides cover five Civics Academy videos, listed below. They then explain how to use these videos in accordance with the TVET college LO curricula, and support different teaching and learning styles including digital literacy:

  1. What is a responsive citizen?
  2. Why should you vote?
  3. What are free and fair elections?
  4. What are Human Rights?
  5. Why is Civic Education important?

To monitor the use of the guides, Civics Academy conducted the physical visits to the participating TVET colleges and published online surveys across the country to see how both the lecturers and students were adopting the guides. The highlights from this year’s visits were shared on our social media channels.

Councillor Seasonal Schools with the Stellenbosch University School of Public Leadership and Western Cape Government

Between October and November 2022, the Stellenbosch University School of Public Leadership (SPL) and Western Cape Government, with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation, convened their 2nd round of the Seasonal Schools for Councillors in the Western Cape. This series of one-day workshops took place under the theme How to maintain public accountability to ensure effective and efficient service delivery toward communities.

The key objectives of the workshops were to provide democratic and accountable governance for local communities, ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner, promote social and economic development, promote safe and healthy environments, and encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the affairs of local government. More directly, the workshops aimed to equip the councillors with the necessary skills to perform their tasks in their respective roles. 

Civics Academy was proud to be featured again in the workshop material for 2022, with the following videos from our Local Government video series being used: 

  1. What are the Rules for Local Government Contracts?
  2. What is the Role of Municipal Councillors in Public Spending?
  3. How do Local Government Budgets work? 

#CivicsChats with our community

To close off the year, on 15 November 2022, we collaborated with the Thuli Madonsela Foundation and our online community for the last of our quarterly #CivicsChats. Titled Civic Education and Participation: Beyond Voting, How Can We Shape Our Democracy & Who is Responsible for Civic Education?  this webinar brought together a panel including the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Rivonia Circle, Civics Academy, and our model active citizen Zolani Zonyane to discuss the topic from their professional perspectives. For those who missed out, here are some of the key highlights from the conversation:

Throughout the second half of 2022, we felt proud and encouraged to see our community-based advocacy efforts increasingly capture the attention of the public.

To our colleagues who mentioned our work on their platforms such as People’s Assembly and Muslim Central Podcast, we send our heartfelt thanks to you for using your platforms to promote civic education and participation in our country. To our many partners, with whom we have collaborated to bring democracy education and training to various communities this year, may the fruitful partnerships continue. Finally, to our community of active citizens, online and offline, we thank you for your sustained passion for civic engagement. 

Nangamso, may we all continue to tirelessly build the democracy we want to live in daily.