SA launches Bill of Responsibilities

31 March 2011

The Department of Basic Education and Lead SA, with the support of the South African Interfaith Council, have officially launched a campaign to promote the Bill of Responsibilities – a guide for active responsible citizenship aimed at young South Africans.

For the first time, the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa has been transformed into a practical document – the Bill of Responsibilities.

The Department of Basic Education has also developed a teachers’ guide that provides practical ways for schools to promote the rights and responsibilities of children and shows how a rights and responsibilities culture can be built into school and classroom management.

How to do the right thing

“The Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution enshrines the rights of each and every citizen and seeks to protect those in our society who are vulnerable, weak or marginalised,” Lead SA’s Terry Volkwyn said ahead of last week’s launch of the Bill.

“It is the cornerstone of our democracy, and as citizens we have the responsibility to build a great nation on its sturdy foundation,” Volkwyn said.

“The Bill of Responsibilities contains the buildings blocks. It shows us how to do the right thing and achieves this by outlining the responsibilities that correspond to each of the rights we are afforded in our Constitution.”

The launch of the campaign to promote the Bill of Responsibilities in schools took place at Glendale High School in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town on 23 March, and at Ingqayizivele High School in Tembisa outside Johannesburg on 25 March.

The Department of Basic Education, Lead SA and the South African Interfaith Council will be highlighting specific rights and responsibilities each month through March 2012.

How to be a good South African

This includes issues such as “the right to education, with the corresponding responsibility to attend school regularly, to learn and to work hard; co-operate respectfully with teachers and fellow-learners; and to adhere to rules and the code of conduct of the school.”

Other issues covered include how to be a “good and loyal South African citizen – obeying the laws of our country and contributing in every possible way to make South Africa a greater country.”

Also covered in the Bill of Responsibilities are aspects such as: “The responsibility in ensuring the right to life, the responsibility in ensuring the right to equality, the responsibility in ensuring the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion; the responsibility in ensuring the right to freedom of expression; responsibility in ensuring the right to live in a safe environment and responsibility in ensuring the right to family and parental care.”

Speaking in Parliament ahead of the launch, ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga highlighted the importance of the Bill.

“The Bill seeks to inculcate the values of rights and responsibilities among school children. In particular, the Bill focuses on respect for human dignity and a work ethic,” Motshekga said.

“It is particularly important for building the character of children, deterring teenage pregnancies, use and or abuse of drugs and alcohol.”

‘Every right has a flipside’

The Bill of Rights is set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, the founding document of South Africa’s democracy. The Bill of Responsibilities provides a framework of values which we all need to embrace. It is especially aimed at young people, but will in time filter into families and the community at large.

“Constitutional development in South Africa has had its own contradictions,” Tony Howard, CEO of Independent Newspapers, said of the Bill. “The founding fathers and mothers of our new Constitutional order in 1996 came up with one of the world’s best constitutional documents and a fantastic Bill of Rights which South Africans are enthusiastically using to defend their individual rights.

“In contrast, there has been a slide in the values related to the Bill of Rights,” Howard said.

“The Bill of Responsibilities is designed to inculcate and impress on our young people, their parents and all South Africans that the Bill of Rights has a flipside – every guaranteed right comes with a set of values we as citizens must preach, practice and live up to in our daily lives.”

‘Stand up and accept responsibility’

Lead SA was launched in August last year as a partnership between Primedia Broadcasting and the Independent Group of Newspapers, with the aim of creating an active civic society by encouraging individuals to stand up and accept responsibility for the challenges they face.

“Lead SA wants you to stand up, do the right thing and make a difference,” said Yusuf Abramjee, Primedia Broadcasting’s Head of News and Current Affairs. “This social cohesion initiative has been very successful so far, and with the Bill of Responsibilities, we will continue to spread the message and create a set of values that we all need to aspire to.”

Moegsien Williams, editor of The Star and editorial director of Independent Newspapers SA, said the launch of the Bill of Responsibilities was a small step in a giant quest to propagate and get South Africans to imbibe the values attached to the Bill of Rights in the country’s Constitution.

“The many ills of our society can be traced to the absence of a moral and a values code in our daily interaction with each other,” Williams said. “Our hope, with the Bill of Responsibilities, is to inculcate a set of values in the minds of our children when they are at an impressionable age and which they’ll live by as grownups.

“It’s a mighty and long-term task that has to be undertaken if we want to be a successful nation.”

Appeal to parents

Williams appealed to parents and other South Africans to get stuck in promoting and teaching the Bill of Responsibilities.

He added: “We will constantly be driving the various messages, which are contained in the Bill of Responsibilities. We are also looking at making educational material available to drive the values to our teachers and our children.”

Zingisa Mkhuma, the editor of Pretoria News, said: “The education of our children is too important to be left in the hands of politicians alone. As caring citizens, as parents and as leaders, we need to take a lead and get involved in the lives of our children. We owe it to them to ensure that we remove all the obstacles that stand in their path towards growth and development. After all, the future is theirs.”

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga welcomed the partnership between the Department and Lead SA and the support of the South African Interfaith Council in taking the Bill of Responsibilities into schools and beyond.

“This campaign aims to ensure that all schools, teachers and learners engage with the issues of what it means to be a responsible citizen in order to build and strengthen a culture of human rights and responsibilities in our schools in which all learners learn and all teachers teach,” Motshekga said.

“The overall vision of the Department is to build an education system that delivers quality education and one in which all role players take their responsibilities seriously in striving for quality and excellence.”

Lead SA calls on everyone – NGOs, educators, parents, religious leaders, politicians and society at large – to embrace the Bill of Responsibilities.

“Let’s make sure we take the messages to our communities,” said Volkwyn. “We need to invest in the youth. We need to set an example. We need to stop failing and start walking the talk.”

Source: Lead SA