Umtata Christian School celebrates Global Dignity Day with Brand South Africa

This article first appeared on the Play Your Part website


On the 15th of October 2014 South African youth celebrated Global Dignity Day. This day is aimed at learning and understanding the importance of dignity and how to help others lead a dignified life. On this day thousands of volunteers all over the world instilled a new, positive, inclusive and interconnected sense of value in young people that will guide them as they grow into adulthood.

What is Global Dignity?

“Dignity is the source of human rights,” This was a key realisation for Vuyo Jack, one of the founders of the Global Dignity Club, who was selected as one of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum in 2009. He was intrigued by the Global Day initiative which was co-founded by a group of Young Global Leaders, Prince Haakon, the crown Prince of Norway, John Hope Bryant and Prof Pekka Himanen. The initiative was inspired by Prince Haakon’s visit to South Africa in the early days of democracy, where he experienced the importance of dignity in people’s lives. “We wanted to build on this inspiration by extending Global Dignity Day celebrations to many people through a summit in 2010 which was attended by young professionals from and around South Africa”,  says Jack.

This journey took them around the country covering the nine provinces with a goal of engaging learners from different backgrounds. This compelled them to conceptualise a more sustainable programme for learners where they could engage and take action on matters relating to dignity in their environment proactively on a daily basis. This is how the Global Dignity Club programme was established in January 2013.

Brand South Africa then joined forces with the Global Dignity movement through the Play Your Part programme. The campaign is aimed at preparing students for their journey towards cultivating the ability to empathise with others and to instil in them the recognition that every life has equal value.

The focus is on accelerating the execution of the National Development Plan (NDP) by taking a community-centric approach to the socio-economic, academic and entrepreneurial development of learners.

The South African Dignity campaign has since reached more than 15 000 school learners in nine provinces across the country. The message of dignity is centred on education, financial literacy and the values of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is largely understood as an expression of kindness to the vulnerable other. It’s phenomenon that has less to do with social vulnerability but more about social assertiveness. The concept speaks to the ability of one to claim what is rightfully theirs in relation to the other.

The Umtata Christian School

The Umtata Christian School in the Eastern Cape came up with the idea to start a soup kitchen, a drama club and Career Expo’s as part of their contribution to Global Dignity Day on a budget of R2000 last year when the campaign was launched.

The soup kitchen is aimed at feeding the homeless people in the area as a way to restore dignity; the drama club is set to empower learners of the school with performing arts skills while simultaneously spreading the message of dignity. With the careers expo, the club adopted three schools in the rural area of Tsolo on the outskirts of Umtata, with the intention to guide underprivileged learners in career choices and self-introspection that goes in choosing a career.

As part of Global Dignity Day celebrations, the learners of Umtata Christian School applied their minds to an integrated programme, performing a play, reflecting on the year by showing videos of the community work they had embarked on throughout the year, such as donating old clothes to the unfortunate and painting a day care centre. They also created a space for participation from the audience by allowing speakers to talk to what dignity means in various spaces, such a spiritual environment and how dignity applies to relationships, as a way to propagate the gospel of dignity to members of their community and the learners.

Play Your Part

These smaller community initiatives are entirely developed by learners of the Club and executed with help from their mentors and teachers. This lays the foundation early on in their education and the value of active citizenship. They are taught to inspire new ways to make a fundamental change in their respective communities. By such activities which are made appealing to youngsters, they are able to display initiative and leadership abilities, which will be key to realising the development goals outlined in the NDP and Vision 2030.

In partnership with the Global Dignity Club, Brand South Africa handed out certificates to all the learners of the Club, as a way to encourage them to continue playing their part in their communities and grow to be active citizens of the country. After all, today’s youth will make up the workforce of 2030, so their input and involvement is crucial.



Investigative journalism is blood, sweat and tears

Celebrated investigative journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika speaks about the difficulties of his profession. Photo: Prelene

Celebrated investigative journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika speaks about the difficulties of his profession. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara.

“One must have a thick skull, a heart of a lion and deaf ears,” said Mzilikazi wa Afrika as he began his presentation on the good, the bad and the ugly of investigative journalism.

Wa Afrika spoke about his own experience as being an investigative journalist for the Sunday Times. The seminar kicked off directly at the FNB building at Wits University as part of the Power Reporting conference.

“Investigative journalism is very, very tough and you need to be prepared to swim with the crocodiles in the river and dance with the lions in the jungle,” said wa Afrika.

The problem journalists face, especially investigative journalists is the problem of intimidation by government.

Investigative journalists throughout the African continent are targeted and silenced. Wa Afrika said this is a big problem the continent is facing and it is also something South Africa is facing.

The notion Mandela had about a “critical, independent and investigative press being the lifeblood of any democracy” should have been said in front of all the African presidents, according to wa Afrika.

It should not be the case that the media become the opposition to the ANC, said wa Afrika. The work of an investigative journalist is very important in balancing a society and yet in other African countries “journalists are treated worse than hobo’s, media houses are forced to close down and journalists’ lives are in danger,” said wa Afrika.

“This is a job that needs to be done, you are [as a journalist] doing a favour for your country,” he said. Wa Afrika said investigative journalists report on stories which affect their people.

He related story of when he was detained at Libreville airport in Gabon for 15 hours because he was a journalist. “My colleague and I were detained with no food or water for 15 hours based on our occupation which we filled out on the forms.”

Both journalists spent the night in a cell with six other men and the next morning they were taken to Mpumalanga where they were interrogated further and only released once their host spoke with the police.

In 2013 a total of 17 journalists have been killed on duty in Syria, six in Egypt and five in Pakistan.

In response to these numbers wa Afrika says, “We need to act now and show them [the government] that they can’t push us around.”

The problem also lies in the lack of reporting on this issue. Over the past weekend journalists were killed in Somalia however “I am yet to read a story in print about this,” he said.

While investigative journalism is expensive and risky, authorities need to be held accountable for their actions. “I do this because I love my country,” he said.

Wa Afrika has eight cameras throughout his house and a neighbourhood watch in order to protect his family. He explained that he often gets death threats.

When Wits Vuvuzela asked wa Afrika if he had any advice for a young investigative journalist he said, investigative journalism is not glamorous, it is blood, sweat and tears. It’s different and you should always watch your back.

“The good is great, the bad is scary and the ugly is death,” said wa Afrika.





For everyone who has been following my blog, you will have noticed that much of my posts involved sexual harassment at Wits University. These were stories my team and I wrote about which helped created awareness about this issue but to also promote change in institutional policy at the university.

A few minutes ago we received an email notifying us that  #teamvuvu 2013 has just been awarded the Vice Chancellor‘s team award for transformation.

We are a team of 17 student journalists who run the campus newspaper as well as studying journalism theory as part of our honours course. It is a great honour to have won this award and moreover right in the beginning of our careers as up and coming journalists.

We will be presented with our award on Friday night at the annual Council dinner. Thanks to all our lecturers’ and all the people who supported our ideas and judgement’s during the coverage of sexual harassment this year.  It was a fabulous and exciting year in the Wits Vuvuzela newsroom.

It is the most rewarding feeling when you receive recognition for the work you have done and just to know that we created a change in institutional policy by our investigative journalism, the feeling is untouchable.


[WITH GALLERY]: Fo Guang Shan: Nan Hua Temple, Bronkhorstspruit

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Venerable Master Hsing Yun, who is the founder of the first Buddhist Temples had aspirations to propagate Buddhist teachings through cultural activites, foster talent through education , to benefit society through charitable programmes and purify human hearts and minds through Buddhist pratice.

I observed much of this today at the Temple. The main Shrine was massive and the smell of incense burning could be smelt from outside the Temple. Before you enter the Temple you need to remove your shoes as a sign of respect and preferably ladies should not show their shoulders or the legs also as a sign of respect. This I am well aware of as it is the same in the Indian religion.


Entering the Temple was an experience by itself. Stepping foot inside was like stepping foot into a new world. We were greeted by three Buddha’s: on the left is Western Pureland or Land of Ultimate Bliss is Amitabha Buddha who represents longevity and endless light. By praying to this Buddha by bowing down in front of the statue you pray for infinite compassion, wisdom and aspirations. The Buddha in the middle is the teacher of the Saha World called Sakyamuni Buddha. His teachings bring an abundance of joy and benefit to all human beings. The Buddha on the right is the Pure Lapis Lazuli Paradise in the East called Medicine Buddha. By giving your respects to this Buddha you will gain good health and longevity.


Our tour guide took us through the Temple and showed us the different aspects of the place. It was uplifting and quite similar to the Hindu religion. It was also comforting to know that the Temple was built in such a way that some parts of the architecture represented South Africa. For example the straw roof, Buddhist Temples do not have straw inside but this Temple did as a tribute to the African culture and make it unique from the other Temples because it in South Africa.


After the Temple tour we had Chinese lunch with the rest of the people at the Temple. It is all vegetarian and you are required to eat in silence. This is because eating is not seen as an indulgent thing in the Buddhist religion, it is a necessity. You need because it is seen as medicine for your body, you eat to stay alive and not out of greed. The monks, students and guides at the Temple eat bearing in mind that it is a quite place to appreciate the food and the preparation that went into making the food and after you have eaten you leave quietly by saying thank you.

The Temple has a coffee shop, curio shop and museum for guests to come and view. It was a new experience and something I would definitely do again.  This is exactly why I fall in love with what I do on a daily basis, I would have never went to the Temple otherwise.

[GALLERY]: The visit to the first lady’s house

Towards the end of last term me and two of my colleagues decided to Visit Fatima Habib’s house in Saxonworld.

This was before she and the Habib family were renovating Savernake for them to move into. Fatima is as outspoken and spontaneous as her husband Adam. We got look through the house and see the beautiful decor, which is unique to the Habib style.

Photos of her two sons and Adam was displayed throughout the house. Fatima told us about her personal life and her professional life as well as how it felt to be the first lady of Wits University.

Science week at Wits University

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This week Wits University has been hosted a science fair where students in all scientific degrees get to showcase their work and projects they have been working on. On show are many wild and wonderful things such as solar cars, strange insects and nitrogen ice-cream. Check out the slideshow for more information.

Inspiring aid for children in need

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on July 14, 2013

NELSON Mandela’s love for children has inspired a Vodacom change the world volunteer to spend Mandela Day this week reading and playing with a group from a poor community.

Robyn Brown has already been doing her bit for charity as one of 20 volunteers in the initiative, in association with Times Media Group, that allows professionals to work with a charity of their choice for a year and be paid for it.

Brown, an outreach programme facilitator at Bright Start, will be reading storybooks and enjoying games with the children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre, which caters for 105 children from an informal settlement near Hout Bay.

Her chosen charity, Bright Start, offers educational support to children from disadvantaged homes. it will help her with a campaign  to encourage Cape Town people to donate books and toys for Wavecrest.

Another volunteer, Norma Young, communication officer for LEAP Science and Maths Schools, said a quiz show called “Are you smarter than a LEAP grader” would put five of their pupils against adult members of various corporations. Other volunteers who are going all out to do their bit for Mandela Day include:

  • Caitlin Longamn has orgainsed massages for elderly residents of Park Care Centre in Johannesburg;
  • Michael Stevens, from Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund, in association with Avis, will donate chalkboards to rural schools around the country;
  • Kilptown Youth Programme’s Stephanie Venter will organise eye tests for 300 pupils, because poor eyesight might affect their ability to do their homework and study;
  • A five-ton food collection container has been placed at Benmore Gardens shopping centre in northern Johannesburg by the Afrika Tikkun organisation, whose volunteer, Naazneen Tarmohamed, will distribute food to needy people; and,
  • Alta Brown Steenkamp, who works for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, is organising bikers from Gauteng to Limpopo to build a wendy house, playground, vegetable garden and fence for a Limpopo orphanage.

“Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” Brown said. “So I’m happy to be fulfilling the spirit and purpose of Mandela Day.

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