Youth voter engagement
A recent coffee conversation between the University of Cape Town's (UCT) SHAWCO Law executive and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Programme Officer has sparked a collaborative effort to address a pressing issue in South Africa: youth voter engagement. This initiative is part of a broader FNF Liberal Workshop campaign aimed at encouraging the youth to vote.
The journey begins with a roundtable discussion involving 40 law students from SHAWCO Law who are asking a crucial question: "Why vote?" Many of these student mentors are uncertain about the significance of their vote and whether it can truly make a difference. Their uncertainty raises a critical challenge: how can they effectively convince high school learners, especially when voter registration statistics continue to show a significant underrepresentation of youth in the electoral process?
According to voter registration statistics, a staggering 14 million South African youth remain unregistered as voters. The potential impact of these young voices cannot be understated; if they were to register and vote, they have the power to reshape the face of South African politics.
SHAWCO Law is a project under SHAWCO Education, led by UCT law students, where UCT law students have the unique opportunity to teach and mentor Grade 8 and 9 learners from SHAWCO-served community high schools on topics related to law and broader socio-economic matters. The programme follows a structured curriculum, prioritising student participation and engagement. Its primary goal is to promote responsible citizenship, foster informed communities, and boost the confidence of high school learners.
SHAWCO Law is dedicated to two schools located in Khayelitsha and Manenberg, and currently, it has over 100 learners actively enroled in the programme. Beyond legal education, SHAWCO Law places a strong emphasis on building meaningful relationships with the participants, extending learning beyond the curriculum. Additionally, the programme equips learners with the tools to channel their concerns through appropriate channels for resolution. It's important to note that volunteers are strictly prohibited from providing legal advice. Moreover, participation in the programme can contribute to community service requirements such as DOL3001X and UCT Plus awards.
In South Africa, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom supports pioneering empirical research projects, publications, and roundtable discussions that offer an alternative platform for debate and the free exchange of ideas. These activities address the social and economic challenges facing South Africa's ongoing development. The Foundation's aim is to provide practical policy recommendations and solutions by conducting well-researched studies that enhance public awareness of critical issues related to South Africa's political and economic development.