Activists dispense legal mouthfuls

2015-09-01 06:00
The 15 graduates with ENS team and course facilitators after the award ceremony. Applications for the new course will open by January.
PHOTO: 
Samantha Lee

The 15 graduates with ENS team and course facilitators after the award ceremony. Applications for the new course will open by January. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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A group of passionate community activists have been rewarded for their hard work and dedication.

After completing a comprehensive and engaging course on Constitutional Law and Human Rights, 15 participants from Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha graduated on Tuesday last week.

The course is hosted by ENSafrica, South Africa’s largest law firm. The course was run from its offices in Eastridge and this is the third graduation.

Starting in March this year, the participants had six months of hard work ahead of them.

Applicants were also subject to a selection process to ensure the best suited participants were chosen.

The course included guest facilitators from the Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI) and the office of the Public Protector.

Shameema Mowzer, legal investigator at the Public Protector’s office, encouraged participants to put their certification to good use.

“You were carefully selected for being community leaders and agents for change. Through this course, [I] hope you acquired the understanding of the provisions of the Constitution, institutions which may be approached and in turn be able to advise your communities of their human rights, of accessibility and accountability,” she said in her keynote address.

“It is therefore a proud moment for you, equipped with understanding to serve your communities better. It will be your legacy of activism.”

Participant Zelma Almano plans to put this training to good use.

“I always had a passion for human rights issues and when this opportunity came around I felt it suited me perfectly. I did not have a job at the time and it was a chance for me to become involved in NGO and community work,” she says.

Almano has been involved with the Human Rights Commission and has been instrumental in amendments to the Credit Act and laws governing child registration.

Her next challenge will be to see improvements in the education curriculum.

Mzamo Sidelo, one of the other participants, has worked in townships for almost 10 years.

“I want to go back home and create platforms to educate people about [Chapter Nine institutions] and help them understand the law and the Constitution. This must start at home. There are a lot of activists out there and that is good, but it will be better if they could look at it with a human rights framework and look at what the law says,” says Sidelo.

He has worked in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu and will continue to help with legal advice. He believes people should be educated about institutions that are there to assist with legal matters.

“If people know about the institutions that can help fight their battles, they will not need to go to court where it costs lots of money,” he says.

Almano believes that the selection process ensured dedicated and passionate students: “The classes were a lot of work but they were beautifully structured and enjoyable. I don’t think anyone wanted to skip any classes.”

Natasha Wagiet of ENSafrica says a lot of work went into ensuring the course was detailed and useful.

“People would think that because it is free, it was just thrown together,” she says.

The six-month programme is not accredited, but because of the extensive work and material that goes into it, participant Abdulrahim Harnekar believes that it could have an NQF level 5 rating, should it be regulated.

“I completed a certificate in forensic examinations at UWC and that was not as engaging as this is. The material and course is really intense and I believe it is more extensive than a first-year course in Law,” he says.

For now, the certificate does allow participants to actively offer legal advice to their communities.

In all, the participants say they are better equipped to deal with legal issues and the course has enabled them to take their community activism to another level.

Johanna Fredricks, from Tafelsig, says she enjoyed learning from the lecturers.

“The Constitution is for everyone, and everyone should be taught their rights,” says Fredricks.

Starting in March this year, the participants had six months of hard work ahead of them.

Applicants were also subject to selection process to ensure the best suited participants were chosen.

The course also included guest facilitators from the Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI)

and The office of the Public Protector.

Shameema Mowzer, Legal Investigator at the Public Protector’s office encouraged participants to put their certificated to good use.

“It is through individuals such as you, who were carefully selected for being community leaders and agents for change. Through this course, [I] hope you would have acquired the understanding of the provisions of the constitution, institutions who may be approached and in turn be able to advise your communities of their human rights, of accessibility and accountability,” she said in her keynote address.

“It is therefore a proud moment for you, equipped with understanding to leave here today and serve your communities better. It will be your legacy of activism.”

Participant Zelma Almano plans to put this training to good use.

“I always had a passion for human rights issues and when this opportunity came around I felt it suited me perfectly. I did not have a job at the time and it was a chance for me to become involved in NGO and community work,” she says.

Almano has been involved with the human rights commission and has been instrumental in amendments to the credit act and laws governing child registration.

With the completion of this course, her next challenge will be to face off with the education department to see improvements in the curriculum.

Mzamo Sidelo, one of the other participants, has worked in townships for almost 10 years.

“I want to go back home and create platforms to educate people about [chapter nine institutions] and help them understand the law and the constitution. This must start at home. There are a lot of activists out there and that is good, but it will be better if they could look at it with in a human rights frame work and look at what the law says,” says Sidelo.

He has worked in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu and will continue to assist in legal advice.

He believes people should be educated about insitutions that are there to assist people with legal matters.

“If people know about the institutions that can help fight their battles, they will not need to go to court where it costs lots of money,” he says.

There were a total of 15 participants and all could agree that the course was challenging.

Johanna Fredricks, from Tafelsig, says she enjoyed learning from the lectureres.

“The course was tough, yet fantastic, I have learned so much,” she says.

As an activist, she would like to help her community and assist them with the necessary legal advice.

“The course was exciting and engaging but a lot of work,” says Sidelo.

And Almano believes that the selection process aided in ensuring a dedicated and passionate class of people.

“The classes were a lot of work but they were beautifully structured and enjoyable. I don’t think anyone wanted to skip any classes.

Natasha Wagiet, of ENSafrica says a lot of work went into ensuring the course was detailed and usfull.

“People would think that because it is free, it was just thrown together,” she says.

The six month programme is not accredited, however because of the extensive work and material that goes into it, participant Abdulrahim Harnekar believes that it could have an NQF level 5 rating should it be regulated.

“I completed a certificate in forensic examinations at UWC and that was not as engaging as this is. The material and course is really intense and I believe it is more extensive than a first year course in Law,” he says.

The ENSafrica team say this is something worth persuing. However no timeline was given.

In all, the participants say they are better equiped to deal with legal issues and the course has enabled them to take their community activism to another level.

For now, the certificate does allow participants to actively offer legal advice to their communities.

“The constitution is for everyone, and everyone should be taught their rights,” says Fredricks.

Applications for the new course will open by January 2016

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