The late Whitney Houston and Nelson Mandela made famous the phrase “Children are the future”. It challenges us to treat children with the utmost care because they are inevitably our next generation of leaders.
Heartlines, in collaboration with the Department of Education, met with over 300 learners from over 50 schools in District 14, in the South of Johannesburg, to speak to them about the important role leaders play not only in communities but on a national and international scale.
Learners, who ranged from school heads, student representative council leaders as well as top academic and sports performers, were engaged in a dynamic discussion which aimed to motivate them to live out their full potential.
Encouraging others to live out positive values has always been the mandate of Heartlines and leaners were challenged to develop positive life skills such as living with honesty and integrity, being empathetic towards others, developing confidence, and learning how to be assertive.
The power of story-sharing was highlighted as a key tool in leadership development, as learners were encouraged to extend a hand of empathy and understanding towards others in order for them to be better leaders.
Story-sharing was offered as a tool to help student leaders deal with difficult peers, as an alternative to enforcing discipline, which some said was their biggest challenge.
Siyanda Zakwe (17) from Morris Isaacson School in Soweto said while each learner has a different style of leadership, he admits that he never considered story-sharing as a tool for leadership.
“I now understand that it is important to know someone’s background in order to understand their behaviour and that developing friendship is far better than making others feel like you’re bossing them around,” he says.
“I’m feeling more confident about my duties because I have a new outlook. I’ve always been interested in understanding my peers’ unique ideas and I believe a leader should be innovative. The story-sharing experience we had today has boosted my self-esteem and I know I can lead better.”
Bongiwe Nene (17) from Topaz Secondary School in Lenasia says she’s always struggled to deal with bullies.
“From now on I can deal with bullies differently, since I realise that knowing someone’s story makes you understand their behaviour, and if we allow difficult learners to share their stories we can get them to open up about their challenges so we can help them,” she says.
Professor Andy Balaram, Child Education specialist at the University of Johannesburg, said the event was a necessary step to invest in young minds.
“Any one of the learners here today could become the next president of South Africa. It is important to teach them that they can overcome their difficult circumstances so they can become whoever they want to be.
We need to listen to young people and understand what issues are affecting them and to give them the skills to become good leaders.”
This project was made possible through the support of a grant from Templeton Religion Trust. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton Religion Trust.