By JOY HINYIKIWILE
When the Makhanda Children’s Rights Coalition (MCRC) launched at St Mary’s Development and Care Centre earlier this year, Ovayo Novukela and I attended to cover the event. We had the pleasure of meeting Rhodes’ Master’s student, Alex Talbot, who delightfully introduced herself as the MCRC’s coordinator. We exchanged contact details and hoped to collaborate further as time went on.
As someone who is building a career in education reporting, I know my work will always be intertwined with children’s rights advocacy. I was excited to get familiar with children’s rights advocacy.
Alex and I bumped into each other once or twice during the year, but as the year became busier and I did not hear from the MCRC again, I thought maybe the collaboration was not meant to be.
That is, however, until I recently received an email from Alex asking if we could write a series of articles on MCRC. It is a difficult time of the year to accept new work (exams!); however, I decided this was an opportunity I did not want to miss. I asked one of my colleagues with similar interests to work with me.
So, here we are, pushing to get as much work exposure as possible before the year ends, but first things first, who is Alex Talbot and what is happening at the MCRC?
24-year-old Alexandreo Zinhle Talbot is currently doing her Master’s degree with the Rhodes University Department of Politics and International Studies. Born and raised in Durban, Alex has been studying at Rhodes University since 2018.
She divides her time between her studies and her part-time job at the Rhodes University Community Engagement. She administers the BuddingQ Programme, which uses play-based techniques to help Grade-R learners develop pre-literacy skills. Students who completed the Community Psychology elective in their Honours year train volunteer students to work with young learners.
From introducing the BuddingQ Programme to St Mary’s DCC, Alex developed a relationship with the NGO and discussed forming the MCRC. As an NGO that provides psychosocial and educational support to children, one of St Mary’s DCC’s visions is to work towards a city united for its children.
“To realise this vision, the idea was proposed to launch a citywide coalition that advocates for children and their rights through creating platforms for child practitioners to deepen their understanding of children’s rights and protection,” explained Alex during a chat.
“The Makhanda Children’s Rights Coalition also aims to be a network of sustainable, relevant, progressive and inclusive child-orientated approaches to protect and advocate for children’s rights. “We want an environment where relationships of support and collaboration are established to allow for effective advocacy of children’s rights.”
The MCRC was launched in March this year through an interactive discussion between stakeholders in child care. The launch included school counsellors, members of the SAPS, the Rhodes University Community Engagement and other NGOs involved in child care. The stakeholders networked and brainstormed ways to further advocate for children’s rights and care.
“The MCRC would like to see increased engagement, communication and collaboration amongst child practitioners to allow for more holistic advocacy of children’s rights. We want to create a safe environment for child practitioners to explore new ideas and concepts that are unfamiliar – a safe place to engage question and interrogate that is safe and allows for informed/ collaborative engagement.”
Since the launch
- MCRC has collaborated with about 20 partner organisations to expand and implement its mandate.
- The coalition hosts quarterly meetings with partner organisations to establish focus areas regarding children’s rights and determine new projects and collaborations.
- The MCRC contributed to commentary and education on the Children’s Amendment Bill.
- MCRC hosted Courage Workshops, which focus on child protection methodology and Play Champion Workshops, which advocate for the right to play.
“In 2023, I would like to see the MCRC grow in size and participation,” said Alex, who believes MCRC has had a somewhat successful but slow first year. The 24-year-old would also like to include children in conversations on what a city united for children should look like.
“Children’s participation is vital to the conversation about children’s rights advocacy; educating and engaging with children is important as it recognises children as agents of the community that can assist with protecting their own rights and the rights of other children,” she said.
So why children’s rights?
“Children’s rights activism is deeply ingrained in my blood and upbringing,” said the 24-year-old. Her activism was ignited by her mother, who has worked for numerous NGOs training child practitioners about an array of children’s rights-orientated topics like the right to play, child participation, The Child Act, child protection, etc.
“I would like to combat the old saying that children should be seen and not heard. Children should be seen and heard simply because they are human. Their opinions are relevant, honest and important when seeking solutions to social injustices.”