This civic education programme supplements the formal academic curriculum of university students by providing a platform for vivid discussions among students as well as with stakeholders, decision makers and academics over the course of the year. By combining sound academic tuition with facilitative leadership, debating, negotiation and dialogue skills, the FHAS enables the participants to become active and socially responsible citizens who work towards a better South Africa for everyone. The first out of three modules of the programme aims at familiarizing the participants with the core values of social democracy as well as how to contextualize it to the African and South African situation.
The project had gender relevance as it aims to empower women to take on leadership roles in society. Their training starts in small positions such as in leadership roles at school and tertiary level, and their attendance of leadership trainings such as the Fort Hare Autumn School is very important and future-oriented. The Autumn School aims to establish a gender-balanced group of participants each year. This year, it consists of 55% men and 45% women.
The specific objectives of the Autumn School were to develop young leaders who would later contribute to the political, economic and social debates of this country and fill the existing leadership vacuum in South Africa. The prospective leaders of the Fort Hare Autumn School should aspire to become leaders that work for the common good and the well-being of everyone in society within their different spheres of influence.
On 13 April, the FHAS class of 2016 and class of 2017 came together for a joint session in which the outgoing 2016 group shared their experience of participating in the Autumn School and gave advice to the incoming 2017 group. The 2017 group were given an opportunity to share their expectations of the programme. This session was followed by a fishbowl discussion on the nature and state of democracy in South Africa. A graduation ceremony for the 2016 group was held in the evening where Professor Francis Wilson, one of the founding fathers of the FHAS as well as Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town gave the keynote address.
From 14 – 18 April, the FHAS 2017 started. A total of 20 participants (9 female, 11 male) gathered in Hogsback, Eastern Cape. This was the first module (out of three) which aimed at laying the foundational basis for the participants’ understanding of social democracy and included sessions on political concepts, core values of social democracy, political economy and social policy. The module also sought to ground participants in the social, political and economic context of South Africa and to assist them to relate the values of social democracy to the socio-political and economic challenges that South Africa faces.
The following topics were discussed during hand over session on 13 April:
The following topics were discussed during the first module of the Fort Hare Autumn School 2017:
Must Fall, he illustrated the concept of political economy and its implications for development and for the realisation of social democracy in South Africa.
The session contributed towards achieving the project aim as the selected twenty students started the first module of the FHAS which will expose them to social democracy and critical thinking. The FHAS functions as a platform to bring together young leaders to exchange ideas and impart knowledge about the political, social and economic development of their communities and South Africa. The 2017 group was highly committed and has demonstrated their ability to discuss and critically engage with the given topics.