Pleas for communities to embrace foreigners

PHIRI CAWE

Pupils at Manzomthombo Secondary School, in Mfuleni, were encouraged to celebrate their culture and traditions in the wider context towards nation-building.

Pupils and staff gathered at the school on Friday March 11 for the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training and Advocacy (ARESTA) multicultural event,which was aimed at rooting out racism and xenophobia, while celebrating racial and cultural diversity through dance, drama, music and art.

Under the theme Ubuntu Has No Borders, Aresta urged young people to unite against racism and xenophobia and other social ills.

Event organiser Noloyiso Ntshinga said the aim of the event was to show pupils how dance, music, or drama could be used to promote peace. “This event forms part of Aresta’s strategy to promote social cohesion and peace building in townships. Xenophobic attacks continue to be part of our daily lives in the townships, and Mfuleni is no exception,” she said.

Ms Ntshinga said they wanted to use the year to promote social cohesion in Mfuleni. “By addressing the issue of race in institutions, Aresta is right on track to combat the social ills of racism and discrimination, which fuel into xenophobia,” she said.

One of the pillars of Aresta’s social cohesion campaign consists of engaging young community members through workshops and events conducted at local schools. She said Aresta acknowledges the potential of including artistic expression to promote diversity and peace building in communities affected by xenophobic violence.

“In the last year, Aresta has successfully integrated more than 5 000 asylum seekers and refugees in the Western Cape Province, as well as trained over 200 Peace Ambassadors and 650 Peace Monitors. Through trainings and workshops, Aresta’s social cohesion campaign seeks to promote tolerance, social cohesion, and non-violent conflict resolution so that the South African host community and foreign nationals can live together peacefully,” she said.

Pupils Olwethu Masindwa and Pamela Cekiso said they were happy to be part of a campaign. The duo did a poem against social ills together. Olwethu said he was grateful that Aresta nominated his school to host such an event. Pamela said she felt strongly against racism. She said the event would help other pupils understand unity among Africans.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees representative, Mncedisi Mbatha, called on pupils to stop using derogatory names such as kwirikwiri to their African brothers and sisters. He said such names fuel xenophobia. “We are all human beings. We are one and there is no kwirikwiri. In fact, there is no such thing. We need to refrain from calling each other derogatory names. Together we have an obligations to root out racism. Racism has no place in the entire world. Let us promote oneness and ubuntu,” he said. He said such activities need to be taken to schools.

Community leaders also emphasised the need to fight racism and xenophobia at schools. Community leader Mzoli Matutu urged pupils to unite against both racism and xenophobia. He called on pupils to refrain from negativity.