Constitutional democracies depend and rely on active and responsible citizens. Only if people are aware of their rights can they lay claims to these from political leaders and representatives. Civic education also educates people about their constitutional responsibilities so that they may support and strengthen the rule of law. In order to support civic education initiatives in the region and to provide a platform for regional dialogue and exchange, the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) has been supporting the establishment of a regional network for civic educators in eastern and southern Africa (CENESA), since its inception.
CENESA was created in November 2017 in Entebbe, Uganda, at a regional civic education meeting. The HSF-SA was invited through its Civics Academy project. Inspired by existing networks such as Networking European Civic Education (NECE) and Networking Arab Civic Education (NACE), participants at this meeting elected an Interim Steering Committee to drive the formation and establishment of CENESA.
One year later, the HSF and the Robert Bosch Foundation invited the Interim Steering Committee representatives from Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia and South Africa to meet in Johannesburg. The aim of the meeting was to develop CENESA’s foundation documents and to draft an Action Plan guiding the activities of CENESA and the Interim Steering Committee over the next year. Experts from other regional networks such as NACE and the HSF Regional Sustainability Network also attended the meeting and shared valuable insights.
Dr Masuku, the deputy CEO of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa, gave a keynote address, in which she emphasised the importance of coordinating the different civic education activities and initiatives in South Africa, especially before the upcoming elections. According to Dr Masuku, networks have the potential to deliver a monetary as well as non-monetary returns on investments. These returns potentially relate to friendship, opportunities, advice, assistance, and a positive influence, which are necessary in order to support efforts to strengthen democracies in the region. In sensitive situations, networks also have the important function of protecting individuals and organisations from negative backlashes related to the work they do.
CENESA will provide a forum that enables civic and political educators across the region to meet each other, exchange best practice models, and support each other in their work.
In South Africa, the Hanns Seidel Foundation started "Civics Academy" in 2015. The civic education project, together with renowned experts, develops short educational videos and podcasts which are made available online free of charge. Civics Academy also collaborates with NGOs and other institutions active in youth education, and it is involved in a partnership with the national Departments of Education to facilitate civic education, and the use of its videos, in Life Orientation classes. Look the videos up here: www.civicsacademy.co.za