Peace, democracy and freedom for all

Peace, democracy and freedom for all

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How ‘Schools, Safety and Space’ make cities more ‘liveable’ for all

Sunday 11th February 2018, and I sense a ‘not’ rising deep in my stomach, not because I think I’ve spotted Gandhi’s granddaughter in a room full of ‘active citizens’, and not because I am struggling to sing the words of South Africa’s trans-cultural National Anthem, but because – 28 years to this day – Nelson Mandela spoke these words on release from prison:

“I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all”

Although a lot has changed since Madiba’s release, as we await news of who will lead the nation next, his vision of peace, democracy and freedom for all has ‘not’ fully emerged yet. ‘What an incredible responsibility and opportunity lays ahead of us’ – I think to myself.

Alongside communities and parents, we believe schools have a responsibility to support children to develop as citizens; facilitating a level of interaction and exchange of ideas that deepens understanding and respect – for all.

‘…the founding principles of society – that is equal rights, justice, freedom of expression, people living peacefully together – are the basic premises for being able to spread a culture that sees children at the centre, allowing the whole society to grow’ (Piero Nasuelli, the Association of Friends of Reggio Children, 2000).

In our Municipality meetings we have emphasised the link between their vision of a more liveable Inner-City and access to truly transcultural education. ‘City-learning’ compiled by the US-based CEOs for Cities network illustrates that families choose to move/live in cities based on 3 factors:

1. ‘Schools’ make cities more liveable

Research suggests that the appreciation, empathy, critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are required in a ‘transcultural school’ – the model we have proposed to our Municipality for the Inner City – leads to a decrease in prejudice and segregation. ‘No one is left unchanged because everyone learns from one another and grows together’ (Spring Institute, 2016).

Transcultural schools act like a micro-society that model equity, inclusivity, and demonstrate to children – and their families – the value of interacting with others in a public space. In a Province such as ours – where Africans, Americans, Asians, Australasians and Europeans all gather (but generally not together) – the introduction of ‘inclusive and equitable quality education’ (UN 2015), would make the Inner-City a more attractive and liveable prospect for all citizens.

2. ‘Space’ make cities more liveable

As well as ‘building the correct number of schools’* research shows that families are more likely to be attracted to city-living where, ‘parks, playgrounds and public spaces compensate for small or non-existent private yards’ (City Observatory 2017).

Priority Zone

In fact, as recently as 2014, ‘recreation’ was officially recognized as 1 of 16 themes that indicate the services and quality of life of every city in the world (ISO 37120). Where this ‘space’ facilitates transcultural exchange it is especially life-giving, not just for families, but for all citizens.

3. ‘Safety’ makes cities more liveable

With high levels of violent crime and homicide, South Africa sits at 123 out of 161 in the IEP’s (2017) ranking of the world’s most dangerous and unsafe countries. Establishing equitable and inclusive schools represents a timely opportunity to start to turn things around for good! ‘Efforts to ensure children’s safety’ such as, ‘calming traffic, widening sidewalks, ensuring eyes on the street’ increase safety for all citizens’ (Making Cities Liveable 2014).

In contrast, where there is a lack of access to quality education – especially in early childhood – young people are more likely to engage in ‘antisocial behaviours’ such as, ‘criminal activities, gang membership, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy’ (CECD 2017). As some of the ‘major social challenges’ that ‘perpetuate the cycle of poverty’ in Durban (IDP 2017), the provision of transcultural Early Childhood Centres and Primary Schools are fundamental to Madiba’s vision of establishing, ‘peace, democracy and freedom for all’ (1990), in ‘Africa’s leading, most vibrant, liveable and walkable City Centre’ (IDP 2017).

*Durban’s Inner City Regeneration Strategy (2017), proposes 64 new Primary & 36 High Schools as part of a vision to increase the population to 450,000.